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?

Did Netflix Original Heartthrob Noah Centineo Make the Same Movie Twice?

Noah Centineo (“NC” from hereon out, because typing out his full name every time I reference him in this post feels like too much effort) who made an adorable and endearing love interest in the Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s YA novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, as well as Netflix original Sierra Burgess is a Loser, continued to play a high-school aged heartthrob in The Perfect Date, along with the ineffably talented Laura Maurano, and went on to make more movies that I’m not going to list in this post. I often like YA romance movies, so I have seen all of the aforementioned movies.

Then, I noticed another movie, which also featured Centineo, and which also featured a dating app, both of which are components of The Perfect Date. I was intrigued. The movie is called Swiped, and before you leave to go look for it on Netflix, let me warn you – It. Is. Terrible. Almost unwatchable. I put it on, and couldn’t finish it, and I willingly watch Hallmark movies for funsies. Sure, I’m mostly making fun of them, like the years where the costume designers didn’t hem anyone’s pants, the predictable plotlines, or the fact that as I grow older, the protagonist of A Christmas Kiss increasingly seems like an inept she-devil hell-bent on terrorizing her unsuspecting, successful boss who was just asking her to do her job, goshdarnit. But I’m still willing to watch these undeniably slightly terrible movies from start-to-finish. But I couldn’t finish Swiped. So, you know – perspective.

One woman’s Xmas kiss… is another woman’s Xmas nightmare

It kind of fascinates me that NC chose to do both of these movies, with fairly similar concepts, so close together. I mean, there are subtle differences. Although both movies feature technologically proficient teens with the capability to fairly quickly develop an app, The Perfect Date features high school students, whereas Swiped takes place in college. Additionally, although both movies feature teenage characters who are socially awkward, The Perfect Date features that teenage character as more of an intelligent teen girl who is an appropriate love interest, whereas Swiped features that teenage character as a nerdy teen boy who develops the app (I think, again, I could only stand like 20 minutes or so of the movie), seems to have mommy issues, and in reality, wouldn’t get laid (although he’s probably got some love interest in the movie, since I think he’s one of the protagonists). Both movies feature NC, and both rely on his good looks and charm to sway the audience as well as make him seem worthy of redeeming, as well as being a love interest, in spite of his character’s flaws. But only one of these movies work.

The largest differentiator between the two films that I discerned based on my cursory introduction to Swiped was budget. Mainly, The Perfect Date seemed to have one whereas Swiped seems to have been made with considerably less money. Swiped has that noticeable vacuum of sound that low budget films often have, where there is no background noise, which makes the lackluster dialogue that much more apparent. It makes the quirks that the characters should have lack humor, because the person talking to him/her/their-self who would seem odd with the right music playing in the background instead seems more like that homeless guy you walked by the other day muttering to himself and pulling his hair out of his scalp (for some reason, the latter feels a little less cute).

So it’s not the same movie, but it is possible that NC chose both movies for the same reason. My theory*: the idea of developing a dating app with a friend that helps him become a better person and find love so enraptured NC that he immediately signed on to do Swiped (a 2018 movie), and then, when the opportunity to make a strikingly similar movie was proffered, he doubled down, and signed on to do The Perfect Date (a 2019 movie). So why is NC so enraptured by this idea? Maybe he has secret Tinder/Bumble accounts, or maybe his love life is solely arranged by his agent, so the idea of finding love in any other way is intriguing and fascinating, or maybe he wants to be the next Steve Jobs, but, cursed with good looks and a lack of turtlenecks, has to console himself in the arms of pretty ladies in movies and on television instead of becoming the technological visionary he knows in his bones he would otherwise be meant to be.

Those are my rambling thoughts about NC and the mystery of the two similar-but-not-quite-the-same movies. What about you? Have you seen one/both of these movies? Did you also compare and contrast these movies – and if so, did your thoughts coincide with mine? Or, better yet, do you have a conspiracy theory about NC and why he did both films? Please spill in the comments below!

*Completely unfounded and likely untrue.

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?

… And so it begins

Hello world, and welcome to my blog!

I consume mass quantities of coffee, and inhale all media-related items like a cocaine addict who doesn’t have a job (… I assume. Since I have never actually tried cocaine, and I do have a job. But I read a lot of books, watch a lot of TVs/movies, and have a husband and sons who will freak the fuck out if they don’t get their hours of daily music.)

Currently living in Southeast Michigan, I have a propensity for cursing and calling people “bitch.”

Not intended to be offensive, it’s just my vocabulary – but I don’t plan to change my vocabulary for anyone else, so if you don’t like it, you probably shouldn’t read my shit. I’m also opinionated, and am happy to hear other thoughts and viewpoints, though my opinions, once forged, are not easy to sway. People like this strength in their fantasy/sci-fi jewelry quests, but sometimes like it less from a woman. Hopefully, you’re not a misogynist asshole – but if you are, you probably won’t like this blog.

#wentthere

If you like women, like strong opinions about things that are often meaningless, or like reading people who swear like a sailor, on the other hand – this may be the blog for you.

Welcome aboard the SS Shit Talker…

Either way, thanks for reading –  I hope you will continue reading, that you enjoy my thoughts, and that I will soon read some of yours, as well.