What Makes “Good” Art, Part II

Last post, I looked at a movie that had such a terrible ending, I was angry at myself for watching it when it was all said and done. Today, I will be analyzing a haunted house movie that I thought was, overall, extremely well done. Things Heard & Seen is the haunted house movie that I would recommend, and that I would consider “good” art, despite the things about the movie that I did not much appreciate.

So, what makes Things Heard & Seen “good” art?

Well…. for one thing, I have my own unique experiences and perspective, and I like it. Concepts of “good” and “bad” are entirely subjective, and while I think you’re wrong if you don’t agree with me, I am a technically biased person who thinks her taste in media is pretty damn good. I’m also unflinchingly honest, and will tell you if I personally like something but I don’t think it’s very good and don’t necessarily recommend.

So let’s get to our story – FYI, this post will be replete with spoilers, so if you have not seen the movie yet or are averse to discussion that includes spoilers for some reason, feel free to just “like” my blog post and go live your life.

One thing that Things Heard & Seen does really well is take a seemingly normal situation and make it absolutely horrific. There are some supernatural aspects that make the movie a true “Haunted House” movie (unlike the movie we talked about last week), but the actual horror in the movie is not because of the house. It is because of the evil that can exist within people, and that does exist within one specific character in the movie.

The movie opens with George Claire pulling into the garage to have blood drip onto his car. You know it’s a haunted house movie, so you wonder if ghosts are fucking with him, but don’t really know for certain. He walks into the house, and comes upon his daughter, who is standing and looking out of the window, bathed in ethereal light, which is creepy, because let’s face it – children are terrifying. The scene cuts to George fleeing the house, holding his daughter in his arms.

What a fucking clever beginning.

The beginning immediately pulls the viewer in, and brings up so many questions. What is going on? Is the house haunted? Is the daughter okay? It creates the lens that George is the hero of the story – a man living through the presumable terror of the haunted house, and protecting his daughter when things get out of hand… who doesn’t root for that?

A monster, that’s who.

No, of course not. As it turns out… George Claire is.

The way that the writers subtly bring out truths that slant the story in a completely different light is so well done. What at first seems to be simply a dysfunctional marriage that is likely either going to be resolved or end in a bitter divorce when the family experiences the haunted house turns out to be something else entirely.

After the intriguing beginning, the movie jumps back in time, and we meet the third member of the Claire family – wife and mother Catherine. The compliment on her thin figure, the fact that she barely eats any cake, and then throws it up, initially makes it seem as though Catherine has an eating disorder. We see her working a dream job for someone with an art degree – restoring some beautiful artwork in a church, and talking to her friend about how she needs to support George, who has given up so much for her, by moving out to the country (Saginaw, which I think in this movie is still supposed to be in NY and not the Saginaw I think of in MI). And as the viewer, you’re scared for her and her family, because they’re moving to a haunted house, and you’re thinking, “Man, if you weren’t moving to a terrifying haunted house, this would be the right move for you, because you’re obviously stressed or something and getting away from this negative influence will be good.”

As it turns out, as the viewer, you are so, so wrong.

#sowrong

In a phone conversation midway through the movie, Catherine’s mother mentions that she is “so lucky” that George “did the right thing by her…” It has already been established by this point that Catherine was raised Catholic, so… we know what that means. But it gets worse. George takes one of his classes on a field trip to a museum (he’s teaching art), and one of his previous professors starts asking questions, like “Why are they calling you professor?” and “I was surprised you got this position, given that I refused to write you a letter of recommendation” and something along the lines of “you were blacklisted for inappropriate behavior with a student…”

Suddenly, the fact that Catherine avoids taking food or drink from her husband, when at all possible, takes on a completely different light. It helps that this movie takes place in the past – people would like to think that the ’80s is modern enough that domestic violence and date rape were looked down on… but actually, while people didn’t necessarily advocate for either of these things, most people just ignored it or looked the other way. Cops back then just stayed out of it, even if they were called, because it was a matter for the family to resolve. So a woman being drugged by the man she was dating, ending up pregnant, and marrying the asshole because her strict Catholic upbringing says that is what she is supposed to do if he is willing to “do the right thing” is a lot more terrifying because it is a lot more believable. I’m not saying this situation couldn’t occur today – but an open-minded woman like Catherine is going to have a lot more resources in 2021 as opposed to the 1980s, where a “he-said/she-said” is probably going to favor the “he,” unless this is an episode of 21 Jumpstreet where Harry was erroneously accused of knocking the girl up because she thought he was just some guy her age who had moved out of town and couldn’t be found.

Most girls weren’t lucky enough to have an officer Judy Hoffs to help.

There are all of these tiny details sprinkled throughout the movie that add to the horror that is George Claire, and you really feel for Catherine, particularly when she discovers that the one thing she loved about her husband – his skill as a painter, which included these amazing paintings he has hung up in his office – is actually his gay cousin, who coincidentally committed suicide, because being gay is not always easy and it was even more difficult in the ’80s. So not only is her husband a rapist monster who has taken her away from her friends and family to a secluded community where she’s expected to perform only the womanly duties of cleaning and caring for their daughter; the way he caught any of her attention in the first place was the result of lies and purloined paintings.

His natural inclination to do whatever it takes to get what he wants is strengthened by the malevolent male spirits of other assholes who have lived in the house previously and whose wives “mysteriously died.” There are female spirits of the woman who were murdered, as well, and the inevitable result of living in the house comes to fruition in a brutal scene where Catherine is, again, drugged by her husband, begs the spirits to help her, and they explain to her that she cannot fight her fate, but they will supposedly get justice in the end…

This bullshit didn’t work so well for me – like, what about the women who have already been murdered in the house? The entire town knows they were probably murdered, but no one can prove it, and it seems their terrible husbands just continued to live until their terrible lives came to a fairly normal end. But for some reason, we’re supposed to think George will be caught, because he ran Catherine’s friend and his co-worker off of the road and the dead women of the house awake this friend/co-worker from a coma.

How is that “justice?” Is George going to pay by going to prison? Is that really balancing the scales of justice when he brutally murdered his wife with a fucking ax? Ooh… he doesn’t get to spend time corrupting his daughter with his terrible influence, he gets a roof over his head, and three meals a day, and fucking recess…. Yeah, he’s really going to “learn his lesson.”

Not to mention, the friend/co-worker didn’t really see much, so it is difficult to believe that her testimony is going to put anyone away in prison.

So what’s probably really going to happen is she’s going to be like, “I told George I was keeping an eye on him, and knew he was having an affair, and then I got run off the road. I’m pretty sure it was George.”

And the cops will say, “Oh, did you see George?”

And she will say, “No. But it has to be him.”

And the cops will say, “Oh… could you at least tell it was his car?”

And she will say, “Well… no…. I just saw headlights. But it was, for real, definitely him.”

And the cops will say, “How do you know it was, for real, definitely him? Keep in mind – you have a vagina, and the words you say only hold 32% of the weight of a person with a penis. And that’s high, because you teach in a college, you get a higher % because we kind of think you have some dude-like qualities.”

And she cries, because she’s terrified, and says, “I just do! Are you telling me he’s just going to get away with it after he tried to kill me?”

And the cops will say to her husband, “Ugh, can you take care of this? You’re wife’s getting hysterical!”

See?! Even Lady Justice is skeptical…

So, there was some bullshit in this movie, for sure. But overall, this movie is terrifying, not so much because the house is haunted, but because people can be monsters who trap innocent people in their web of lies and torture and terrify them before eventually ending them. I’m still spooked.

What Makes “Good” Art?

For some reason, I have been watching haunted house movies recently. Specifically, I watched Aftermath and Things Seen and Heard. Aftermath has so many good elements… But it’s about 30 minutes too long, and the ending is so terrible, they should just use this movie as an example in writing class of why you need an appropriate ending for your work. Things Heard and Seen was great – the spirituality stuff and attempt to provide resolution didn’t really work for me, but the unfolding of the full horror of what Seyfried’s character Catherine goes through is so well done. So today I am going to analyze what made one of these movies so terrible I was angry when I was done watching it. Next week, I will analyze what made one movie so great, I was able to ignore the stuff I didn’t like. Because both movies had positive and negative features – so why do I only consider one of them to be a good work of art?

Aftermath is almost good. A young couple is struggling in their marriage, and as a last resort, decide to start over in a new house when they happen upon a good deal (which the husband has discovered through his work, and because something absolutely terrible occurred in the house). There is a loss of trust between the husband and the wife – she has been unfaithful at some point in the past, and he is not sure if he can trust any longer. But she’s Ashley Greene, and even though she probably doesn’t possess her Twilight character’s psychic powers, she is hella pretty, so… you know, he’s trying to figure out if he can keep that ass on tap, so to speak. (Also, they love each other and all that mushy stuff. #cooties)

So they buy a house — because nothing helps a couple bond like entering into an investment they probably can’t afford even though it is a really good deal — and immediately, shit starts happening.

The primary witness to the weird shit is Ashley Greene, a fashion designer who works from home while her husband is out cleaning up murder scenes during the day and taking night classes at the local college. So a good part of this movie hinges on the concept of whether or not the house is actually haunted or Ashley Greene is going crazy, as well as, if she’s not crazy, will her husband eventually believe her, given that they already have trust issues and there is no evidence to support her possible hallucinations.

For those who are not aware, the inspiration for this movie comes from a real terrorization of a couple who purchased a home in San Diego. If you are aware of this real-life story, a lot of the things happening to the couple will seem familiar – though that doesn’t mean that the movie won’t make the source of the crazy shit different. I would say the first 90 minutes of the movie are solid. There’s drama from the couple’s marital tensions, there’s drama and terror from what is happening in the house, and there’s the question of, since I assume something is actually happening because this is a horror movie, is it supernatural or is it man-made?

I was really enjoying this movie, with it’s good actors and solid build-up. And then the last 28 – 30 minutes happened, and I. Got. Pissed.

[Seriously – I’m going to delve into specifics of Aftermath that could adversely impact your viewing if you decide to watch this shitshow, because you will know where it is headed. Read at your peril! #duhduhduhn]

*SPOILERS BEGINNING* So – it turns out that the couple was suffering from more than one tormentor. One was doing more mundane torture, like ordering magazine subscriptions the couple didn’t want and trying to get the wife raped and shit. The other was pulling a creepier-than-Edward-Cullen that included lurking over Ashley Greene to watch her sleep. The first was just some dude with debt who was relying on his wife taking longer to sell the house and allowing him to get out of the hole he had dug himself into with it. The second – a dude named Otto, who is only semi-explained, is completely unnecessary, and is illogical as well as slightly insulting to the viewer.

To explain this shitshow of an ending further, I guess I’ll have to delve into some of the backstory. Because while no one *loves* exposition, it is absolutely necessary to how they decided to end this story, despite the fact that the way they did it doesn’t really make sense.

The house was built by the couple who die at the beginning of the movie. Jay, the husband, built the house based on his wife Erin’s design. Jay and Erin also suffered from infidelity issues – basically, Jay didn’t know how to keep it in his pants, which pissed off Erin, so she ran off and slept with someone else to “get back at him.” This is all explained to Ashley Greene by Jay’s heartbroken sister, the lovely lady who sold them the house, who ends her tale with: “That bitch was up to something.” According to sister, there was something different about Erin’s affair, but she wasn’t sure what it was.

It turns out that what was different about Erin’s affair was that she decided to build a secret room in the bowels of their house where her lover, Otto, would live under her husband’s nose. Which is weird, because, like – if you’re that pissed off, can’t you just get a divorce like a normal person, and not turn this into a weird scenario that makes people question your viability as an actual adult? How did this woman successfully interact with the world?

Especially when you meet Otto – a painfully thin man with skin paler than brand-new white bedsheets and nails that are sharp as claws who towers over other people. If you were going to cheat on your husband, shouldn’t you be going after some young guy with a six-pack? Otto is a very unusual man, who ends up kidnapping Ashley Greene and chaining her to his bed (which supposedly Erin was doing to him, I guess?). He seems to have extremely limited verbal skills – like, worse than my children’s speaking ability at 1-year-old. He is freakishly tall, and also crazy strong. I just don’t understand where the attraction there is – he’s not super hot, you can’t have a conversation with him, and he’s potentially mentally ill if that wasn’t the result of this chick Erin chaining him to a fucking bed to keep him hidden in the walls of her house so she could have sneaky sex with him while her husband is gone?

It’s also really unclear – why did Erin chain him to a bed? The premise seems to be that she needed to do that to keep him in the house, in which case, you have to ask yourself, what part of this affair is consensual? Then again, from the creepy picture collage Otto managed to put together, it also seems he was obsessed with Erin, making it seem he would have stayed in the house without being chained. This idea is corroborated by the fact that he continues to stay in the house after he has killed the married couple there previously (because Erin “chose her husband” over him), presumably pining after his lady love until he found a new pretty lady to obsess over.

So Erin definitely had an inappropriate reaction to not liking her husband sleeping with other people, which ranged somewhere between taking advantage of a mentally ill person to kidnapping and raping that person, who happened to get Stockholm syndrome.

#totesnorm

This line of thinking is dumb and convoluted. It makes me think extremely poorly of Erin, whom I would normally presume we are supposed to feel sympathy for since she is brutally killed at the beginning of the movie, but… given this backstory the writers give us, honestly, I have no idea what they’re going for here. It’s hard for me to feel sorry for Erin, who has done horrible things. Basically, Otto defended himself against someone who was torturing him in one way or another. Do you feel sorry for John Wayne Bobbitt? Only if you’re a monster or don’t know the whole story.

Then, there’s the question of what the fuck is going on with Otto? It seems that he’s supposed to be a real person, given that Ashley Greene and her husband kill him in self-defense at the end of the movie. And like, yeah, they had to stop him – he was going to kill them. But also – I still kind of feel bad for him. It’s not his fault that he has limited speaking ability, or that he’s super tall and super thin. He also probably didn’t ask to be tortured by Erin, who seems to have been taking advantage of someone who is mentally ill in a best-case scenario. What is the point of Otto? It feels… insensitive, like the movie goes about systematically destroying a mentally ill person. Maybe all Otto needs are some drugs or some positive attention (because I’m not going to call whatever Erin was doing positive attention). Or maybe he needs to be institutionalized, because he doesn’t get the way the world works. I don’t know. I do know that I don’t think he deserved to get kidnapped, raped, psychologically tormented, and then stabbed with scissors.

My final point, and the reason I think so poorly about this ridiculousness that the writers hurled at us is that it is completely unnecessary. The average running time for a movie is approximately 90 minutes. If you had ended the movie with the husband and wife discovering that something was, indeed, happening, and it was due to the all-too-real broke-dude, that would have been a good movie. Then, you just need to give us some closure about this marriage, even if it’s Ashley Greene going: “Dude, you didn’t trust me, and I don’t think this is going to work. I need to find myself a fresh dick that won’t leave me alone in a house to be tormented and nearly raped.” Just closure – I’m not necessarily asking for an HEA here. You could end the movie like that, and have a complete movie with a solid ending. But no, instead we get this sordid soap opera which basically seems to involve mocking a mentally ill person. *SPOILERS ENDING*

In other words, Aftermath doesn’t add up.

Pretty Little Stalker – Who’s the Real Victim?

For anyone who has seen the movie Pretty Little Stalker, the title is a rhetorical question; obviously, the victim is us, the viewers. It sucked me in with it’s title that was obviously designed to draw the attention of Pretty Little Liars fans and ridiculous-sounding thriller premise. I continued watching it, because it was a dumpster fire – terrible and rotting, but sort of beautiful, in a nonsensical, this-needs-a-drinking-game way. So how is this movie terrible? Let me count the ways (and, like, don’t read the rest of this post if you actually have a desire to watch the movie and don’t like spoilers, because that is what the remainder of this post will be comprised):

  1. In the beginning of the movie, a character named Maggie, who you will only ever see in this one scene questions the protagonist’s legitimacy as a mother because she’s in her second marriage. Which is… very illogical. It’s like someone likes to eat salad, and someone else being like, “But you don’t like chicken nuggets. How can we trust your legitimacy as a person who likes eating salad?” Like, shit, Maggie may “tell it like it is,” but she also seems like a crazy person and also, she’s literally only in this one scene, so this entire scene should have been left on the editing floor.
    1. On a related note, this scene, which is a Lorna book signing, since the protagonist is a bestselling self-help author, ends with Lorna signing the book of whomever the next customer in line after Maggie was. You don’t know this person’s fucking name. This person doesn’t matter. But, like, I love how legible Lorna’s signature is. As anyone who has seen a doctor, or attended the book signing of a bestselling author knows, people who have to sign their names all the time have nearly illegible signatures. They have to, to avoid carpal tunnel and, you know, boredom.
  2. So, this one’s a little random, but the dress Lorna wears in the third scene of the movie (modeling a dress in front of the mirror; immediately after the book signing scene) is one that I own. It’s a kerchief dress, with a solid black top with a keyhole, and a paisley-esque skirt. I’ve had this dress for, like, a decade now. Pretty sure I got it on sale at JCPenney’s. Also, weirdly, this is a dress her husband purchased for her, apparently on a whim, since he has to ask her if she likes it, and says he “wasn’t sure” she would. Like, why did you buy it then? Seems a bit misogynist…
  3. Lorna’s supposedly normal high school son is introduced playing the handslap game with his girlfriend. You know, the one where you hold your hands above the other person’s, and you have to try to move them out of the way before they get randomly smacked? These kids are supposed to be in high school. High school students are smart enough to know how to try to seduce someone. This game is literally the weakest foreplay I’ve seen in my life – like, that boy’s never getting laid.
    1. Side note: It’s pretty obvious that Ashley Rickards is the stalker. But wouldn’t this movie be so much better if the “girlfriend” character Bridget was actually the stalker, and was playing the long con to completely ruin Lorna’s life? Like, she gives Lorna’s son syphilis or something before sneaking into his mother’s bedroom and cutting her Achilles tendons so the self-help guru can never walk again. #justsaying
  4. There are several scenes (okay, at least 2) where Lorna’s husband, named Harry, is exposing his hairy chest. In the first scene in which this occurs, he is investigating a noise that Lorna heard. It is very important that he be shirtless, guys. He can’t put a shirt on or even grab a weapon in case it’s robbers to investigate.
    1. The “placate-the-wife” routine this misogynist is going through, since he obviously doesn’t expect it could be anything dangerous because he hasn’t grabbed a weapon is pretty played-out. Like, he deserves that golf club to the head. #TeamMallory
    2. Do you think they changed the name of Lorna’s husband’s character after casting Mr. Hairy chest? Even better, I would love if he’s not actually hairy at all, and the costumer with the ancient discount closet carefully collected, like, her dog’s hair or something and glued it to Harry’s chest.
  5. There’s this whole, weird virgin worship in this movie. Like, Mark’s supposed to feel ashamed that he finds Mallory attractive when he has a girlfriend. I mean – she’s a super hot chick who has an endless well of family drama, which we all know is often the best aphrodisiac. It’s okay for a high school boy to be interested in her. Just, like, don’t string your “girlfriend/slap-hands partner” along – let her know she’s really cute and all but you really want some hot, crazy sex, and maybe you’ll hit her up again when you’re done sowing your wild oats. #honesty
  6. Hairy literally closes his wife’s laptop on her fingers when she says she’s not ready to go to bed. So controlling. Why can’t you just let your bestselling author wife sleep in? Damn, she bought you a freakin’ mansion. Let her do what she needs to do to keep making green! Those property taxes are not going to be cheap.
  7. Because the screenwriter needed to make sure you didn’t find Mallory likeable, there’s this weird scene where she kills the couple who bought her previous home. This scene is amazing. Mallory literally strangles some random bitch named Monique while her husband is sleeping right next to them in the bed. Guess when the husband wakes up? Like, right after his wife was killed. Like, hey guys, just another shirtless misogynist. Nothing to see here. He totally deserves that bullet to the chest. #TeamMallory
  8. The chick who plays Britney in Glee is Lorna’s agent. She loves the book that Lorna is writing based solely on interactions Lorna has had with her stalker. You would think Lorna would look more favorably on someone who was her fucking muse. It was at this point in the movie that I thought: “Dude Lorna, I don’t know what “Mallory” has planned for you, but you probably deserve it.” #TeamMallory
  9. Lorna plans to postpone her son’s 18th birthday party… because she’s grounding him for dating a girl she doesn’t like. Are we supposed to think she’s a good parent? Like, I thought I was strict. Lorna just seems like an emotionally controlling monster.
    1. It’s okay though, guys. She takes that back and gets her 18-year-old son balloons. Like, yeah, I’m so sure your 18-year-old son will appreciate those much more than inviting his girlfriend.
  10. So… just to be clear:
    • Lorna, who doesn’t seem to have any education in therapy, psychology, etc., wrote what are probably bullshit self-help books that “helped” Mallory’s mother realize she wanted to divorce her husband and abandon her daughter, resulting in Mallory’s father killing Mallory’s mother and then himself.
    • So she destroyed Mallory’s family.
    • Yet it is okay for her to protect her own family when Mallory tries to help karma out a little bit by attempting to kill Mallory with a gun.
    • She couldn’t even have tried to draw Mallory out while she stealthily dialed 911, and gotten Mallory monologuing until the police arrived, since they are required to show up at to investigate if they’re not getting any feedback (or hear a mentally ill woman raving and threating to, you know, kill people). Or maybe she could have been like: “Mallory, you’re so smart! You have so much potential. Don’t throw that away by killing my lame nerd of a son. I was inspired by our conversation over dinner – I’ll give you a share of the royalties! Let us be partners. Huzzah!” Nope, she just nabs Mallory’s gun and shoots the poor girl.
    • Who’s the real victim here, I ask you?
  11. Also, for some reason, they have Mark’s 18th bday party 6 months later. Which is just… odd.
  12. There wasn’t even a twist at the end where Mallory, like, walks in front of their house or something. #missedopportunity

So, yeah – I was not a fan of Pretty Little Stalker. Though I will admit:

  • the chick who plays Lorna has amazing hair through the movie, so kudos to the hairstylist; and
  • Ashley Rickards does a good job with a batshit character whom it is unlikely would actually be out on the streets for so long considering how often she attacks people.

Have you seen the movie? If so, what were your thoughts? If not, I don’t recommend it – also, did I convince you to join Team Ashley?

9 Ways Princess Switch: Switched Again Could Have Been Better

My husband and I recently watched the Netflix original movie The Princess Switch: Switched Again, a movie so lazy its’ creators couldn’t even pretend to put thought and effort into it, thus resulting in a title that I literally laughed at when I first saw it. Because I love camp, and laughing at things that are ridiculously bad, I did somewhat enjoy this movie. Having said that, there are various ways that this movie could have been better. [Note: If you haven’t seen this movie yet, and don’t want any spoilers, you should stop reading here. If you have seen the movie or don’t care – read on!]

Here are 9 of them:

  1. The princess and Stacey decide to just swap places, and therefore husbands, whenever they start going through the inevitable couple slump (because letz bee real – happily ever after doesn’t happen, and even if it did, it would take helluva lot of work to keep).
  2. Stacey kills the princess (why not? she’s from Chicago, they’ve got a high murder rate #plausible) and pretends to be both of them for the rest of her life. The prince and her best friend never figure it out.
  3. At the ball/dance/fancy party, Kevin realizes upon meeting Fiona that Margaret’s weird, poor cousin is probably game for some really freaky sex, absconds with her to the bedroom and never looks at Margaret again.
  4. The prince calls Stacey on her bullshit (serious, just tell the man, who is supposedly your life partner, what is going on) and dumps her ass.
  5. The entire switcharoo scheme recurrence is actually an elaborate plot of Stacey’s to get her husband laid, because she thinks their sex is boring.
  6. The prince espies Kevin kissing Margaret, who he thinks is his wife, because his wife’s too stupid to be honest and transparent and tell her husband what she’s doing, and he kills Kevin, causing Margaret to lose the love of her life, and Stacey to lose her best friend. Everyone’s sad. #toobad
  7. In the airport, Margaret and Kevin’s spontaneous wedding vows are more akin to things people would actually come up with when put on the spot. In my mind, it goes something like this:
    1. Margaret: Wassup?
    2. Kevin: You dope.
    3. Priest: Whatever, I guess you’re married? I’m gonna go catch my flight.
  8. At her coronation, Margaret runs through the holy man after being crowned and announced as queen (sword hidden beneath the throne), because he almost crowned her cousin queen. Her cousin! Doesn’t anyone have a brain?

Let me know your favorite, or your additional thoughts, on how this terrible movie could have been better.

Nice Try, Netflix: Enola Holmes

I knew, going into watching Enola Holmes that it probably wasn’t going to be very good. But I shrugged, and though, “Huh. Maybe it will be fine. I can at least give the pilot a chance.” I have no idea how I got the idea it was a TV show, but I was expecting a series with the mystery of the disappearing mother being a long thread tantalizingly teased throughout, and a smaller mystery solved each week. So I was wrong – I mean, I guess it was “fine,” if you believe in disrupting characters to the point that those characters are no longer themselves, and like to watch 16-year-olds barely survive in a dangerous city because you know how annoying teenagers are – of course, everyone is out to kill them. Oh, also – it’s not a TV Show (again, I have no idea how that idea weaved itself into my mind…).

Enola Holmes, which I keep wanting to turn into Enola Hughes because apparently my brain isn’t working today, has a great cast and a large budget, but sucks more than the psychic vampire siphoning off my energy and ability to think clearly today. In fact, Enola Hughes would be a more fitting name for both this movie and it’s main character, because there is no point in making a movie about the Holmes’ family if you’re going to change the characters of both Sherlock and Mycroft beyond recognition.

I think it means well. It’s like, “People love Sherlock, but do we really need another story about this rich white dude who’s just really good at solving mysteries? After all, rich white girls can be good at solving mysteries, too, as Veronica Mars showed us. AND that will mean we can give this film a feminist slant, which educated people in the crumbling facades of democracy that constitute former powerhouses America and England seem into.” For those of you who have noted that:

  1. Sherlock was not, initially rich, which was part of the reason he needed a roommate (hello, Dr. Watson!) until he became rich and famous by solving mysteries;
  2. Veronica Mars was also not rich, in fact a large part of that television series was about the struggle for power and respect in a city with stark divides between the have and have-nots, and V and her pops definitely fell into the “have-nots” category. (In fact, how she was able to afford her bitchin’ camera, completely new wardrobe, regularly maintained coif, and technology gadgets is a mystery of its’ own that will never be solved…);
  3. My faux quote ends in a preposition –

Well done. You are worthy of reading my blog. I did those things on purpose to see if you were paying attention, and you will probably not much like Enola Holmes.

For those of you who did not, you’re not being very observant and/or did not imbibe the same media as me, so sit in the corner with your conical hat, and think about the fact that you might, in fact, like Enola Holmes. The movie is made to appeal to sheep, of which you may be one. You should feel bad about that, and you should engage in some serious self-reflection to try to avoid saying “baa” all the time in the future.

Enola Holmes is basically a re-make of 16 Candles with Bellatrix Lestrange as the purposeful mother, a very watered-down Jake who everyone is trying to kill, and the successful murder of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. As anyone who has read the stories is aware:

Mycroft is not a pompous, blustering idiot. Mycroft is more intelligent than Sherlock. He is also much, much lazier.

And Sherlock Holmes is not a handsome devil lackadaisically solving mysteries, maybe, if he feels like it. Sherlock Holmes is weird. He’s very passionate and high energy when he’s working on a mystery, which he works at with a focus that is possibly psychotic. And when he doesn’t have anything to keep him manic (i.e., another mystery to solve), he is melting into his couch because he’s coming down from his cocaine high, which as anyone who has ever listened to The Weekend knows, means that he is fucking depressed as shit.

Millie Bobby Brown is very pretty, and gives a decent performance as an intelligent woman capable of solving crimes and finding her own way in the world with the myriad of English pounds left to her by her mother. She’s less believable as someone who is naive and uses the word “nincompoop” more than once. And her scattered glances at the audience to break the Fourth Wall feel like a failed attempt to replicate the smart, well-loved performance given by Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag, wherein PWB’s asides to the audience seemingly effortlessly convey meaning to the audience in what is ultimately a sign of her mental breakdown.

If Enola Holmes wasn’t trying to insult the viewer’s intelligence by pulling people in with reference to a well-loved and established fictional character by changing all resemblance to that character, I probably wouldn’t take too much issue with it. In fact, I might even like it. As it is, however, the movie did fail me – first, by not being a television show (which, again, sounds much more likable, because – weekly mysteries done well are always fun to watch), second, by altering those well-established characters in a way that was neither interesting nor thought-provoking and really blatantly point out that the movie should just not in any way even try to affiliate with the beloved characters of Sir Doyle, and would have fared better as the screenwriter’s own flawed creations.

Nice try, Netflix, but fucking do better next time.

Audrey Hepburn & the Disappointing Movie Based on an Intriguing True Mystery

Amazon Prime occasionally has some hidden gems, and I was both excited and intrigued to see an old film featuring Audrey Hepburn that I had not only never seen, but had never head of, entitled Mayerling. My lack of knowledge could be seen as a sign that I am not a true Audrey Hepburn fan, or it could be a sign that this movie is terrible, and as such, has been hidden away for awhile because why go out of your way to save a shitty movie, even if it does star someone with grace and charm? Regardless, I decided to watch it.

Unfortunately, it is a pretty terrible movie.

Not funny bad, either, just… very dull. So you can watch it, if you’re, like, trying to go to sleep or something. Otherwise, I don’t recommend it.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did watch the entire thing, in case there was some saving grace at the end of the film. There wasn’t.

Wondering why Audrey Hepburn would have participated in this mediocre production, I began to research. Although a terrible movie, the incident that inspired the movie is very interesting. You are probably a better history student than I am, and already know that Mayerling is the village in which Habsburg heir Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress Mary Vetsera both died in mysterious circumstances in a hunting lodge, resulting in instability that culminated in the death of the archduke Franz Ferdinand, the crisis that instigated WWI. If you are not already aware of this string of events, don’t worry, you are not alone. I just looked this shit up, and can direct you to a few articles about the event, including one by the Royal Opera House, the site Naked History, and, of course, the obligatory Wikipedia article.

#datedculturalreferences

An unsolved mystery involving both the aristocracy and having such terrible results is obviously going to hit all the right gossip buttons for most of us. After reading up on the matter a bit, I was kind of surprised that the version featuring Audrey Hepburn and her first husband Mel Ferrer was so dull, uninspired, and frankly, chose the lease interesting solution. The lover murder-suicide pact because the Crown Prince’s family just didn’t understand his son idea is, admittedly, very romantic. Until you find out that the Crown Prince had syphilis, and had already suggested a murder-suicide pact to his former mistress, a woman a bit older and less impressionable than Mary, who declined. This fact changes the story a bit, doesn’t it? And becomes a mentally and physically ill older man’s seduction of a younger girl, culminating in his using his influence in a deadly manner. Until you find out that the body of Mary Vetsera has since been exhumed – and there was no evidence of a bullet wound at all, although there was evidence that death had been caused by violent blows to the head. This end doesn’t entirely rule out the theory of a murder-suicide pact with the Prince, although it does make such a theory decidedly less romantic. Then, there are the rumors that Mary’s family showed up to the lodge to beat the shit out of the Crown Prince (he was, after all, probably taking advantage of Mary at least a little bit), with the Crown Prince accidentally killing Mary during the ensuing brawl, and being murdered by her relatives as a result. There’s another theory that Rudolf took Mary to the lodge to break up with her, and perhaps she reacted violently, causing the prince to kill her in self-defense, then kill himself in horror at what he had done.

THE Hunting Lodge

So many theories, and a mystery that will never be solved (particularly since no one has permission anymore to exhume Rudolf’s remains). Every theory more interesting than the one chosen for Hepburn’s movie.

So why was the most romantic and least likely solution chosen for Hepburn’s movie? And why did Hepburn and Ferrer agree to star in it?

More mysteries I do not have an answer for, although my theory is that it somehow involves her husband’s interests, and perhaps recommended itself to her romantic, though misguided, sensibilities. I fear, however, that my musings on this matter might be the least interesting solution, also. What are your thoughts? Would love to hear your wildest or favorite conspiracy theory!

Nobody gets teen angst like a bestial metaphor

Let’s talk about the movie Thoroughbreds, which I watched recently over the holiday.

I was hoping to really like this film, which has been marketed as akin to “Heathers” meets “American Psycho,” both movies that I greatly enjoyed (although now that I think about it, there’s a TV show called Heathers as well, that I haven’t seen (and probably won’t), which could be part of the reference being made here, also). I did not like it as much as I was hoping.

In a nutshell, this movie primarily revolves around two teenage girls who rekindle an old friendship. One of them is a sociopath who feels no emotions, the other is an emotional girl who hides her turbulent emotions behind a social-friendly mask. When these girls begin speaking again, their conversations are unconventional, and become dangerous.

This movie has a lot of good elements:

  • the actors, though few, are all fairly good at their parts, particularly Olivia Cooke (the ill girl from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and new Becky Sharp in the new Amazon Prime series Vanity Fair). Honestly, if there is a reason to watch this movie, it’s her.
  • the premise of maniacal, murderous mean girls, is both alliterative and fun.
  • there are many sequences that are shot very well. For those who have seen the movie (don’t worry, not going to get too spoiler-y), I found the scene where one character is incapacitated and the dramatic action occurs offscreen very compelling.

In spite of these good elements, however, the movie did not work. The plot is too thinly drawn, and the pacing is off. In spite of a plethora of great scenes that are well acted and shot well, the amount of stale, stagnant time between these scenes is too abundant to keep the viewer as invested as he/she otherwise might be. Overall, I would not recommend this movie if you have not yet seen it.


If you have seen it, please let me know your impressions and thoughts in the comments below. Do you agree with me? Disagree? Want to take up horse riding?