10. 20th Century Women
Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical character dramedy might be the most resolutely pro-feminist artwork to ever totally fail the Bechdel test. Of course, you don’t need me to mansplain to you how the Bechdel is an imperfect metric of a film’s female-empowerment quotient (the opening of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” technically passes, for example) but really, basically every single conversation held by 20th Century’s estrogenically-animated triumvirate—Annette Benning, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning—is either explicitly or implicitly about caring for the film’s sensitive male adolescent protagonist Jamie, the 16-year-old Mills avatar played by Lucas Jade Zumann. But Jamie isn’t the subject of 20th Century Women any more than the glowing suitcase is the subject of Pulp Fiction. 20th Century’s women are defined not in relationship to Jamie, but in their response to him—and even then only in part. Mills has a painter’s eye, spicing up his nostalgic late-‘70s-set coming-of-age story with a wide variety of tasteful formal quirks to create a complete work that’s equal parts eclectic and familiar, personal and universal. 20th Century Women also falls into what’s increasingly become a favorite sub-sub-subgenre of mine: the low-key indie movie about primarily nice and well-adjusted people, who mostly just need a small nudge here and there to get back on the same page. What better company is there during such an unprecedented time in human history? All hail the gynocracy.
Look, I love Jim Jarmusch as much as any paunchy mid-30s white dude with an art degree from a major state-run university. And assuming you clicked on this review of your own volition, chances are so do you. And that’s fine. But it’s important, I think, for people like us to acknowledge that the world Jarmusch has been selling us for the past 30+ years is, at its core, no less far-fetched or fantastical than any Middle Earth orc-a-thon or Star Wars space opera.
There’s an entire genre of very shitty prestige film out there I like to call the “let’s-watch-this-asshole-self-destruct-for-90-minutes-before-we-tell-you-what-bad-thing-in-their-past-is-making-them-act-this-way” movie. We all know the kind of movie I’m talking about: the ones where sad sack protagonists forget to shave, drink alone in bars, listen to singer/songwriter music, and break down (in Oscar-friendly tear-heaps) somewhere deep in the third act. But even though Kenneth Lonergan’s new film Manchester by the Sea appears to fit this woeful subgenre to a T, the celebrated writer-director of You Can Count on Me and Margaret is in fact much smarter and more talented than all that. And Manchester, really, is nothing short of a masterpiece of American introspection.
First things first: I’m an old school Rob Zombie fan from way fucking back. My favorite concert going memory of all time is the ersatz White Zombie frontman’s 1998 tour stop at the Great Saltair in Salt Lake during the Hellbilly Deluxe era—which involved (among other kitschy spookshow visuals) a clear Lucite guitar filled with cow blood. So never let it be said that I’m not all-in on Zombie as a purveyor of industrial pop metal mayhem served up in a big bag of Halloween candy.
Have you ever heard of the Chiba-based prog band X Japan? Me neither, but there are thousands of people out there who apparently have, as the copious footage of Beatlemania-esque levels of pandemonium featured in in director Stephen Kijak’s biographical rock doc We Are X makes abundantly clear.
For those of us (assholes) well-acquainted with the darker corners of the internet—be it through sickness, harmless curiosity, or lust for transgressive experiences—it will come as an absolute non-starter of a shock to learn there exists such a thing as tickle fetish videos. Once you’ve seen “Mr. Hands” fuck his big horse dick through a grown man’s abdomen until his equine cockhead pops through the fuckee’s solar plexus like a stage-2 xenomorph, the thought of some light-BDSM tickle-torture featuring shirtless Abercrombie dudes isn’t quite so scandalous. But the actual tickling part of David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s amazing new documentary Tickled isn’t the weird part—the weird part is everything else.
What is the job of a politician, exactly? It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as we trudge through yet another grim clown pit of an election cycle. Sure, I took civics in high school just like everyone else did, but I’ve been more or less out on politics ever since Rage Against the Machine tricked me into voting for Ralph Nader in 2000—a fact that still makes me vaguely nauseous every time I dare conjure it from my appertain-ravaged memory banks.