The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her

Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Viola Davis, William Hurt, and Isabelle Huppert all in the same flick. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, Ned Benson’s The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her suffers from a weak and hackneyed plot.

I really wanted to like Eleanor Rigby: Her because it’s one of three films that tell the same story. Its companions are The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. Cool concept, right?

There were some great scenes featuring Chastain/Davis and Chastain/Hurt, but otherwise, I was bored. I found myself paying more attention to Chastain’s swell wardrobe and fantastic hair cut. [She was making me miss my red hair!]

Maybe I’ll enjoy The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him more? Maybe I would have liked Her if McAvoy had his Scottish accent? Or at least an English one? Alas, alack.

SPOILER ALERT!

I recently re-watched The Accidental Tourist, starting Hurt and Geena Davis. I saw it at least a couple of times when I was a kid and became emotionally attached to the score by John Williams. I even learned some of it by ear and would play it on the piano. Anyhow, I digress. Back on track now!

While watching Eleanor Rigby: Her, I thought it was interesting to see Hurt playing the grieving grandfather rather than the grieving father. And then I thought, “I wish I was watching The Accidental Tourist instead!”

END SPOILER

Verdict: Watch the first season of The Affair and The Accidental Tourist instead. Though I might soldier through Eleanor Rigby: Him because I quite like that McAvoy chap.

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The Alan Moore Interview: Part One

Last summer, I had the tremendous opportunity to interview the legendary Alan Moore. Yes, I was intimidated! It was a phoner, which I always find to be trickier; not being able to gauge a person’s visual cues. But within seconds of talking with him, I felt at ease.

Somehow, we ended up talking for over 90 minutes and I was almost late for work. It was first thing in the morning for me (Boston) and the afternoon for Moore (England). The interview was to run on Examiner.com, a website I had been freelancing for. Without much notice, Examiner was bought by AXS, and I found myself with an interview and no place to publish.

alan-moore
Alan Moore photo courtesy photo of Trevor Seamon of Score Press
Until now! Hooray for self-publishing! And a thank you to my west coast bestie, Erin Fitzgerald, for encouraging me to start this blog.

The impetus for this interview was the recent release of Moore’s multimedia art venture entitled Show Pieces. The crux of Show Pieces is its short films. I found them to be witty and terribly haunting.

AMY: Good morning from me!

ALAN MOORE: Good afternoon from me.

AMY: I just want to start off by saying that it’s my brother’s fault that I like your work.

MOORE: Oh, so he indoctrinated you, did he? Good man.

AMY: He did! He had to do mail order for comic books, because it was the eighties when there wasn’t a comic book store near us. He had The Killing Joke and he also liked Pop Will Eat Itself’s “Can U Dig It.” That was the first I heard of you was on that single. I was still into Dazzler and Wonder Woman. Your writing just opened a whole world for me, so I want to say thank you for that.

MOORE: Thank you very much for that. That is great, Amy. Unfortunately, myself, I’ve kind of become very, very distant from all of my early work. All of my work that I don’t own. But I’m always glad to hear that it did the job that it intended it to do and that people enjoyed it.

AMY: In your collection of short films, Show Pieces, I found the character of Faith to be very relatable. What led you to feature autoerotic asphyxiation as kind of a starting point for Faith.

MOORE: As with a with a lot ideas, it came together from a variety of sources. Initially, it was Mitch Jenkins just calling around to my house for a cup of tea, as he does occasionally. He got an idea about making the photo shoot [that] he’d recently done for my underground magazine Dodgem Logic. Because we had a lot of fun doing that, he’d like to do a little ten minute film. Just to remind people that he has done an awful lot of film work in the past. And that he does do something other than take high-end celebrity portraits.

I asked if he wanted a short screenplay, if it could be useful. He said that it couldn’t hurt. The initial brief was that it would be the characters that had been featured in the photo shoot, or characters like them. Mitch said that he wanted to introduce another character; an actress. He’s friends with Siobhan [Hewlett]. He said that he got an image in his mind of a woman’s mouth in lipstick, pressed against the inside of a polythene bag. I said, “Okay, well, I’ll see if I can work that in.”

The initial story, Jimmy’s End, was the first thing to be written. That was written before Act of Faith and it was written before the other three short films. I was putting together a bigger story in my head while I was doing it. I didn’t know that we would get to see much more of Faith than just these ambiguous glimpses of Faith briefly pressed against the window.

AMY: That part is fantastic.

MOORE: Yes-when James is entering the club where it’s so quick that you’re barely sure that you’ve seen it. And then Faith’s general demeanor during the scene where she’s talking to James and Mr. Matchbright, just that frightened cowed kind of behavior. And then the dialog between her and James when they’re dancing, you get a suggestion of a bigger story. But back then it might’ve ended up as a suggestion. As an atmospheric suggestion.

Now, by the time I had written Upon  Reflection and  A Professional Relationship. These were originally intended as short pieces. This was when the entirety of Show Pieces was planned as an app. Show  Pieces has a very, very bizarre history of making  it to the screen, largely because me and Mitch were insisting all the way through that we should keep full creative control. We weren’t asking for very much money, but we were asking for something rather unusual in terms of control and ownership. At one point, we’d got a software company interested in making the film as an app, which would  have  little short films as Easter eggs, I think the term is.

AMY: Yes.

MOORE: That was how A Professional Relationship and Upon Reflection came to be written. At this point, we were a couple of years into the process and we hadn’t gotten anything done. Apart from a lot of scripts and a lot of meetings. I was, frankly, at the end of my tether and so was Mitch. It was Mitch who said, “What should we do?” I said, “Why don’t make a little short film to show was we can do.” Mitch said, “Yeah, that’s not a bad idea. Perhaps it could be a trailer.” And I said, “Yeah, alright, it could be a trailer, but it will be my idea of a trailer in which it will show nothing of what is actually going to be in the film.”

AMY: “I’m a big fan of that.”

MOORE: Yeah. Trailers. It’s like a speeded-up, nonsensical version of the film. A version that actually spared you the discomfort of actually going and watching it. So, we thought, “What if we did a trailer that was a little, self-contained film itself.” I started to think that we didn’t want to show anything inside of the club. That would have been giving it away. So I thought, “Why don’t we deal with Faith? Why don’t we show how she got into the club?” We could do a five or ten minute thing. One actress. One room. That sounds cheap.

So I began to focus upon the character of Faith. I started to work out her history: Who she was. Where she worked. Where she’d come from. There’d be a reference to her father being a vicar. I started to think about her career as a journalist. That’s why we open with the shot of the newspaper, The Mercury and Herald, which actually doesn’t exist anymore. It was the oldest newspaper in the world, I believe. A few years ago, it changed its name to The Herald and Post, which is a right shame. We’ve decided to keep The  Mercury and  Herald as a as a real entity in our imaginary Northampton.

I suppose that the character of Faith seemed to me, well, I wanted somebody who has her own sexual identity. I wanted to show that, but not as a flaw. I wanted to show that as part of her personality. I was a little distressed by some of the commentary on Act of Faith which seem to think that it’s about a young woman committing suicide. I thought it was pretty clearly not. This is about somebody who is taking part in a ritualized form of sexuality and something goes wrong.

AMY: Still touching on Faith, I loved the Faith No More CD in the film.

MOORE: I’m glad you noticed that! We tried to pay attention to everything. Like the bottle of vodka she puts down is Tunguska, which is where, in 1908, a meteor or something, impacted and completely devastated the area. It looked like a nuclear attack. So we thought, “Tunguska Vodka: It will flatten you.” Everything that you see is something that we invented, with the exception of the Faith No More CD. It was an irresistible pun.

END OF PART ONE

 

Batman: The Killing Joke

In July 2016, I was at San Diego Comic-Con when Batman: The Killing Joke premiered. I wasn’t in attendance for the screening because Ehlers-Danlos syndrome has limited my ability to stand in long lines. But after B:TKJ was shown, I spotted its screenwriter, Brian Azzarello, doing a signing at the Image Comics booth.

Well, it would have been a signing if Azzarello was signing anything.

No one was in line for Azzarello. I was waiting for a signing by Paper Girls artist Cliff Chiang. I kinda smiled at Azzarello. He gave me a funny look and said, “I like your dress.” I was wearing a Batwoman DC Bombshells dress. I said thanks.

I didn’t understand the funny look at the time. Later that day, a friend told me about the uproar over B:TKJ. The SDCC audience did not like the film and voiced their opinions loudly.

But hey! I like Azzarello. He’s funny when he’s on panels. Check out this photo of him plotting his next entertaining quip at Boston Comic-Con 2013.

Aaron Lopresti, Scott Snyder, Tony Daniel, and Brian Azzarello at Boston Comic-Con 2013. Photo by Amy Galante

As a librarian who has spent time in a wheelchair, I feel a kinship with Barbara Gordon. I felt obligated to checkout this adaptation. I also felt guilty because in 2016, I interviewed Alan Moore and he was such a sweetheart.

My verdict: Barbara Gordon’s head-over-heels crush on Batman wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Her interactions with her library co-worker were cute. Still, this Barbara Gordon was more appropriate for DC Super Hero Girls.

I thought that the B:TKJ animation was shoddy. I watch a fair amount of animation. I guess I’m spoiled by Pixar, Studio Ghibli, and Laika.

Moving beyond the animation, I tried to be open-minded. I was looking forward to hearing The Joker voiced by Mark Hamill. He nailed it. I kept thinking of when Hamill read, in his evil villain voice, a tweet posted by Donald Trump.

The creepiest part of all was Ray Wise, as a naked Jim Gordon, yelling, “Where is my daughter?!?” I’m sure that some folks could hear that and not think of Wise’s role as Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks, but I’m not one of those folks. I expected to hear Grace Zabriskie at any point.

But … yeah. For a not-for-kids animated feature, it lacked a more mature plot, dialogue, and animation. When it did try to push the envelope, it was just gross; it looked like a Saturday morning cartoon with nudity.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, and Swedish Vampires

In my review of Deepwater Horizon, I mentioned that I once met director Peter Berg. It was at WonderCon 2012 in Anaheim, CA. Photos were not allowed in the room. But here is a photo of Erin holding a Peter Berg-signed Battleship poster.

Erin and her Battleship poster at WonderCon 2012. Photo by Amy Galante

The poster also is signed by actress Brooklyn Decker and some guy named Alexander SKARSGARD. Oh. Sorry about the all-caps. My iPhone autocorrects that last name to all-caps.

When I spoke to Skarsgard (fixed it that time!), we asked him about the differences between filing Battleship and Generation Kill. Most notably, he told me that being in Generation Kill  was an honor. That they had pretty much filmed the entire series in one month, in the desert.

I commended Skarsgard on his performance in generation kill. He thanked me and said it was nice to talk about the series. I told him that I had borrowed it from the library and that when my fella and I started to watch episode one, he said, “Why did you bring this home? This looks like something I would pick, not you.” And then, minutes later, “Is that … SKARSGARD?!? That’s why you brought it home!”

As I concluded my story, Skarsgard shook his fist in the air, and shouted, “SKARSGARDED!” Erin mimicked Skarsgard and said, “SKARSGARDED AGAIN!”

And that is my story about the second time that Erin and I met the Swede made famous for his tragic performance in Zoolander.

Review: Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon is what an action-drama should be. Disclosure: I’m a Peter Berg flunky (“Clear Eyes! Full Hearts!”). I even own Battleship, but who doesn’t like a movie that stars Tim Riggins, Eric Northman, and actual Navy veterans?

What impressed me the most about Deepwater Horizon were the sets. After the movie,  I watched all of the bonus features and learned about how much were actual “live” affects. Flames, explosions, geysers of mud … they even built their own mini rig on the water! Say what you will about Berg, but the man is extremely passionate and doesn’t half-ass things (I met him once, and he was a wee bit intimidating).

Deepwater Horizon director Peter Berg (R) promoting Battleship with Alexander Skarsgard (L) and Brooklyn Decker (center) at WonderCon 2012

John Malkovich oozes creepiness. His character personifies corporate greed and his accent is kinda amazing. Thankfully, my hometown boy, Mark Wahlberg, made no attempt to sound southern. Maybe just slightly less Dorchester.

If you’re keeping track, this film rounds out Kurt Russell’s Trio of Movies with Facial Hair (Hateful Eight and Bone Tomahawk being the first two). I can never unsee what I saw in Bone Tomahawk. Never. You should watch it.

Deepwater Horizon felt like a good tribute/depiction of the actual events. Berg wanted people to remember that there wasn’t just an oil spill (the worst in our nation’s history) but that lives were lost. Sure, they take liberties, but I’m not so close to the subject material to take umbrage. I don’t know if I will be able to say the same about Patriot’s Day.

Deepwater Horizon was the eighth movie that I’ve watched this year. Check out my film diary on Letterboxd

Review: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 

I kicked off 2017 by watching a VHS copy Henry: Portait of a Serial Killer on a CRT television. I’m thoroughly modern. For younger readers, CRT is an acronym for Cathode Ray Tube. Until LCD and plasma displays came along, CRT was the standard for televisions. Translation: the TV is old and the picture gets cut off on the sides when I watch TV.

Henry is a movie that I had always meant to watch, but hadn’t gotten around to seeing. My first job was at a video store, and I remember handling Henry. Viewing it on my VCR seemed appropriate because it made Henry seem even more gritty.

Michael Rooker, of The Walking Dead fame, churns out a disturbing performance as our titular character. Going toe-to-toe on the creep factor with Rooker is Tom Towles as Henry’s roommate, Otis. Actually, I found Otis to be waaaaay creepier than Henry.

No one has a merry life in Henry. Probably a given when “serial killer” is in the title. Tracy Arnold’s Becky is possibly the most disheartening of the three. She is down on her luck, experienced a horrible childhood, and has horrific taste in men.

Henry manages to portray a serial killer without being overly-graphic. There’s no torture porn. It’s left to the viewer to imagine the events leading up to most of the deaths.

It may not have the high production values of American Psycho or Natural Born Killers, but Henry works on a different level. Plus: it’s a fantastic time capsule from 1986. Millennials can learn all about portable videotape recorders!

Keep an eye out for that Rooker guy. I think he’s super! He may have already slithered into your galaxy. (Bad puns, I know. Sorry.)

104 Movies and a Year with Women 

For the past few years, I’ve taken on the FiftyFifty challenge to watch 50 films and read 50 books. In 2016, I fared better with the films, watching 104 movies that I had never seen before. This list doesn’t include repeat viewings of favorites like Highlander, Mad Max: Fury Road, Donnie Darko, or all things Edgar Wright.

With much remorse, I write that I only read 22 books! But I read loads of comic books, which suck up most of my reading time. I blame my fantastic Local Comic Book Shop (LCBS), The Outer Limits.

But, this post ain’t about reading!

I kept track of my movie watching on Pinterest. It was more fun when Pinterest let anyone browse boards. Now, you can only see a wee bit of a board before you’re prompted to login or create an account. For 2017, I’ll be tracking my films on Letterboxd.

My #FiftyFiftyMe Films board can be found on Pinterest

In 2016, I watched 103 movies. I also tried my darndest to watch 52 films by female directors, inspired by A Year with Women. It was hard to find female-directed movies that I hadn’t seen before. I fell short with only 22 films viewed.

I’m glad that I tried to spend A Year with Womenbecause I stumbled upon Maya Deren. Her short films from the 1940s were revelations! As I was mesmerized by Deren’s Ritual of Transfigured Time, I caught a glimpse of a woman and thought, “Is that Anaïs Nin? No. Yes? Yes!!! It is!” Then I completely geeked out because Nin is one of my favorite writers and I had never seen her in a moving picture before!

Check out my Year with Women Pinterest board

 

If you are a fan of avant-garde cinema, I recommend checking out Deren’s films. She was ahead of her time. I hope that someday, her films will get the Criterion treatment. Currently, Maya Deren: Experimental Films is out of print but many of her films are available to view through Amazon and YouTube. I borrowed the DVD from my Local Public Library (LPL).

My absolute favorite film of 2016 is One More Time with Feeling. This 3D documentary, shot in black and white, chronicles the creation of Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. When I saw this movie, I felt a communal sadness in the movie theatre. I’ve never experienced something like that before.

One More Time with Feeling is a study of the musician’s creative process, but also a poignant and tasteful look at how grief affects a family. The DVD is scheduled for release on March 3. That gives me something to look forward to in 2017.