Mitt -2014-


Directed by Greg Whiteley. 92 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Watched on Netflix)

Mitt is a must-see because is accomplishes the Herculean feat of portraying Mitt Romney as a relatable guy. Yes, the forty-seven-percent-borrow-your-parents’-money-and-start-a-business-my-friends-own-NASCAR-teams two-time presidential loser actually seems like an okay guy. I was taken aback.

The film is all the more fascinating because it’s the most genuine glimpse the general public will get of old Mittens. Neither Mitt – a conservative (at least if he thinks it will get him votes) Republican – nor liberal director Whiteley was incentivized to skew the documentary one way or another. Romney and the film’s production company partnered up in 2006 when he was first planning a bid for the 2008 presidential election. The terms of the film were renegotiated in 2011 when Romney ran again so that none of the footage would be made public until 2014, well after the 2012 election. As a result, Whiteley gets to capture the Romney clan is a relatively natural setting, since the captured footage could have no impact on his electoral prospects.

Mitt isn’t going to sway viewers on policy (I didn’t vote for him and still wouldn’t), nor is that the film’s intention. However, it shows a dramatically different Romney than the one America say in the ’08 and ’12 campaigns. This Mitt is happy to poke fun at himself and is the most-laid back adult in his family. While Romney’s opposition framed him as an out-of-touch plutocrat (not that he did much to prove them wrong), onscreen he is a humble guy who frequently acknowledges the privilege into which he was born. Mitt’s hero is his father George, a self-made businessman and statesman who Mitt readily admits was a far more determined, successful man than he could ever dream of being.

In addition to the personal angle, Mitt gives the viewer a look into the frustration and exhaustion that comes with a major political campaign. Instead of watching the latest bullshit pseudo-scientific Netflix documentary, try Mitt on for size.

(Seen and written on 2014-01-24)

The Wolf of Wall Street -2013-


Directed by Martin Scorsese. 180 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at Arclight Hollywood)

While it isn’t Scorsese at his best (was anyone expecting it to be?), Wolf was a damn fine way to break my month-long movie dry-spell. After deviating from his usual “rise and fall of a protagonist crushed by his own excess while striving to prove his manhood and self-worth” formula with the dreadful Shutter Island and the near-excellent Hugo, Marty returns to form. Sure, Wolf is a retread, but it’s one of his better retreads (trumping Casino, for instance).

While Leo’s interpretation of Jordan Belfort is a transparent lift of Ray Liotta’s performance of Henry Hill back in GoodFellas, there are enough differences to make the character interesting. While Hill’s identity stems from the family he joined, Belfort’s identity comes from the family he made. While he treats his wife dirt and has no remorse for the countless investors he fucks over, his firm, Stratton Oakmont, is the love of his life. His employees love him, and he loves them back. Belfort is an asshole, but Terrence Winter writes enough humanity into the character to put him head-and-shoulders above the straw men that are Gordon Gekko and his knock-offs.

The rest of the supporting cast (with the exception of a distracting, inexplicable Metthew McConaughey cameo) is solid. I liked Jonah Hill, though I bet he’ll irritate the shit out of some folks. The other founding members of Stratton Oakmont all have their stand-out moments, and it was surprising to see Rob Reiner show up in a non-shitty movie for once. And Margot Robbie, holy smokes. I just looked her up on IMDb, and it turns out that I’m more than a year older than her.

What the fuck are they feeding girls these days? It must be the hormones in the chicken or some shit like that.

Kyle Chandler has a great screen presence and can hold his own against the better-known stars, but I wish that Winter and Marty would have further fleshed out his character. In a film that, in typical Scorsese fashion, peppers trivial yet interesting character details throughout the story, Chandler’s FBI agent feels less like a person and more like a device. Someone needs to take Belfort down by the movie’s end, and that seems like the filmmakers didn’t care about who did it.

Wolf is the longest Scorsese film I can recall. While I didn’t feel the length nearly as much as most three-hour films, there’s filler to be sure. I got a lot of bang for my movie ticket, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled for when some aspiring ACE member uploads an abridged version on YouTube.

Aside: Not a single Stones track plays throughout the entire film. Hell must be chilly.

(Seen and written on 2014-01-19)

The New Star Wars Trilogy That Should Be (But Won’t).

The new trilogy oughta take place 30-35 years after Return of the Jedi, and the situation in the Galaxy is becoming even worse than it was during the rule of the Galactic Empire. The protagonists of the original trilogy are the new villains, having gradually become what they hated in the decades after the post-RotJ power vacuums.

Leia has occupied the office of Supreme Chancellor of the New Republic for decades when Episode VII begins. While the Galactic Senate has been reformed, Leia has almost complete control on matters of military and legal policy.

In the years following the collapse of the Empire, Leia oversaw the capture and trials, and executions of numerous high-ranking Imperial officers. The purging of the Imperial remnants slowly bloated into a witch-hunt spanning the entire Galaxy. Trillions of New Republic citizens are killed, imprisoned, and exiled under the pretense of having Imperial sympathies.  Growing more paranoid with age, Leia turns her sights on targets that may potentially threaten the stability of the New Republic and her power.

Among those targets is her brother, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. In the years between Episodes VI and VII, Luke reestablishes the Jedi Temple and starts training a group of disciples, the first of many such classes. While he knows that traditionally, only two Sith Lords exist at any given time, Luke is not convinced that the threat was extinguished following the deaths of Darth Vader and Palpatine.

Luke and his battalions of fiercely loyal Jedi eventually begin a violent crusade throughout the Galaxy in the name of defeating the Sith. Paradoxically, the pathological fear of the Dark Side of the Force has made Luke fall into its clutches. The campaign is initially sponsored by the Republic, but shortly before the events of Episode VII, Leia withdraws support and declares Luke a public enemy. The Jedi, answering only to Luke, prepare to battle the Grand Army of the Republic.

After his relationship with Leia crumbles, Han Solo builds a criminal empire upon the ashes of the now-defunct Hutt syndicate, becoming the most powerful gangster. His power is challenged only by Lando Calrissian, a move which leads Han to assassinate him.

Over the course of the trilogy, a new band of Rebels find themselves in the midst of these warring factions:

–Han and Leia’s daughter, who abandons her privileged life to fight the corrupt Republic.
–The grandson of Grand Moff Tarkin, living under a pseudonym. The family Tarkin is now pariah in the Galaxy. While the younger Tarkin hates the New Republic, he is haunted by his family’s genocidal past.
–Chewbacca, who breaks his life-debt to Han rather than facilitate his brutal crimes.
–R2D2, who breaks ties with Leia while C-3PO remains loyal to her.
That’s all I’ve thought up so far. I think it’d be cool.