A Double-Splish, A Bigger Splash

Top: “A Bigger Splash” by David Hockney; Bottom: A Bigger Splash, currently in theaters

There will be two “Bigger Splash” movies this year.  One of them is a documentary on David Hockney, the great Los Angeles-based artist.

The movie A Bigger Splash takes on a theme I’ve seen in a few indies lately: that of vacations going south.  Force MajeureThe Two Faces of January, and The Loneliest Planet are examples of this concept in recent years.  Terror flicks like I Spit on Your Grave or Hostel also technically fall under this category, though we’re talking there about a very different type of film, obviously.  It’s a great storytelling tool because it allows ordinary people to be placed out of their element, out of their comfort zone.  Vacations allow ordinary people to face extraordinary circumstances.

A Bigger Splash - text block

 

Force Majeure was the best at this, in the psychological drama side of the bucket.  One of the problems with A Bigger Splash is that it is not completely confident of what it is trying to be.  As a psycho-sexual drama, it had me pretty well gripped for about the first three-quarters, at which point it took the inevitable turn as given away in the trailer — and suddenly became a completely different and much more mundane picture.  Because of this, I was going to render a marginal thumbs-up, but the film did stick around in my head just long enough for a 7/10.

Comparison Notes: besides the films mentioned above, Swimming Pool (2003) — one of those movies I’ll have to see again to post on; La Cérémonie (highly recommended)

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Better Call Saul Midstream Debrief

NOTE: As with my Breaking Bad post, NO SPOILERS will be found herein.

Kettleman!

If I ever have a child, I will name him or her Kettleman.  On the other hand, Ehrmantraut has a nice ring to it…

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Better Call Saul might not be the best show ever aired, but that’s debatable.  It must be the most purely entertaining.  And though I indicated it was mere coincidence that Saul Goodman’s arrival on Breaking Bad heralded that series sweeping into the clip it would ride to the end, know now that it was more than coincidence.

As a spin-off, Better Call Saul could not be more different than Breaking Bad.  Except, possibly, in those scenes with Saul, Breaking Bad is completely devoid of humor.  Better Call Saul, on the other hand, deftly folds equal measures of comedy and taut drama.

Better Call Saul - text blockLike its progenitor, Better Call Saul suffers from moments of incredulity — a Vince Gilligan trademark perhaps.  An easy way the show could have greatly lessened this flaw: just throw out that first run-in with Tuco, and save him for later.  It’s just one too many coincidences.  Even so, this show is so fun that those few moments click by rapidly, and become even more inconsequential than in Breaking Bad.  I only bring it up, really,  as a point of comparison to Mad Men, which has no such instances.

As a counter-balance, Better Call Saul offers one of the most realistic depictions of the work lawyers actually do that I have ever seen on TV or film.  Name another show that features — time and again — the grunt-work of sifting through stacks of paper.  That essential bane of actual attorneys is rarely if ever included in courtroom dramas.

Oh and the relationships!  Between Kim and her boss, between Jimmy and Chuck, between Jimmy and Kim… oh how I adore this show!

Season 1 is available on Netflix, and if past is precedent, you’ll have to wait a week before the Season 3 premiere (i.e. another year) before Season 2 comes on board.  On that note: Vince Gilligan appeared on celebrity Jeopardy!, and was asked why there were not more episodes.  The answer was that the network would love more, but he felt the quality would suffer.  And he has a point — I think that’s another kink with Breaking Bad: things getting a little stretched out at times, something Better Call Saul never suffers from.

PBS Log: Janis: Little Girl Blue

Another recent PBS highlight was the airing of Janis: Little Girl Blue, which I had missed during its theatrical release a few months back.  I love good PBS programming, and American Masters is continually excellent, but it would be nice if they wouldn’t claim films as their own original production without a nod to prior release; this is not the first time they’ve done that.

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WHEN JANIS SINGS, I’M GLUED.  At the program’s start, I said ‘ho-hum, I’ll flip between this and baseball.’  That flip never happened, and baseball took a night off.

This documentary ended up being one of the most magnificently compelling musical biographies I’ve seen — in a sense, much deeper than Amy.  It features a ton of never seen before footage (by me anyway).  Janis Joplin was a joyously, deeply talented performer, heralded in her lifetime as “Queen of the Blues.”  Little Girl Blue does a good job sticking to her life story, which is all that needs to be done.

One more dig though on the PBS airing: they kept bleeping out any one of the 7 words you can’t say on television.  Very annoying.  But a funny thing about those words.  Although I wish PBS would have some cojones, it’s almost always readily evident which one of those words is being bleeped.  So, annoying, but not enough to truly diminish the powerful story.  And then there is this on the PBS airing:

Never-before-seen extended cut features new interviews with Alecia Moore (a.k.a. Pink), Juliette Lewis, Melissa Etheridge, Laura Joplin and Narrator Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power)

These interviews are key, so kudos to PBS on that I suppose.  Make sure you see the version with them (I can’t imagine the film without).  I haven’t checked, but I would guess that if you watch it via PBS VOD, there should be a good chance of escaping the aforementioned censorship.  9/10

Availability: PBS

VOD Log: 99 Homes

Cross House of Sand and Fog with Wall Street, filter through the lens of Blood and Wine, and you’d get something like 99 Homes.  Maybe a little anyway.  It is a compelling film throughout, if never quite explosive.  And it’s hard to put my finger on it, but it feels not altogether completely fleshed out, i.e. not as well-rounded as it could be.  Still, pretty darn good.  7/10

Availability: iTunes rental

Film Brief: Everybody Wants Some!!

Everybody Wants Some!! is not without its occasional charms and the ability to fall into a pleasurable rhythm, but it will just as soon stall out.  Not surprisingly, it shares the same lackadaisical non-storytelling style of director Richard Linklater’s 1993 effort Dazed and Confused.  I felt a little better about this one than Dazed and Confused, but Linklater could take a lesson from American Graffiti on how to make a compelling version of the ambling youth film.

Everybody Wants Some - text blockSo my next statement you’d expect is that Linklater is a hack — but that’s not the case.  I liked, from what I saw, the charming Before Sunrise (1995), and Bernie was excellent.  So he’s just inconsistent.  Everybody wants some… good movies to watch.  A better story would help, but when Linklater goes out of his way to avoid any drama, the results are less than optimal.  4/10