This month’s theme is Blog Free or Die Hard. Unexpectedly, our secondary theme for this month is the importance of donuts in friendship. Girl Asleep and Tangerine don’t have a lot in common…but they do share donuts.
Remember that movie shot entirely on iPhones? It’s also one of the first films to gain wide(ish) recognition for its representation of trans women of color.
After serving a short prison sentence, Sin-Dee is catching up with her bff Alexandra over a donut on Christmas Eve. Donut singular as Sin-Dee is broke as a joke after being unable to work for the past month. Both ladies are trans sex workers in LA, which is a niche but pretty in-demand corner of the market.
Alexandra accidentally lets it slip that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend, Chester, couldn’t even go the past month without cheating on her with a cis white girl. Enraged, Sin-Dee decides to track down the girl, Dinah, and make her regret the day she was born.
Meanwhile, Alexandra is promoting her event tonight, where she’ll sing at a dive bar. She invites Razmik, a cab driver and regular client. Razmik is Armenian with about 8 family members to support, including his wife and young child.
Alexandra agrees to help Sin-Dee find Dinah and Chester as long as they don’t stir up too much drama. Sin-Dee breaks this promise pretty quickly and heads off on her own to the food line, a motel, and a donut shop–pissing off virtually everyone she comes across.
When Sin-Dee does find Dinah, she drags her to the bar where Alexandra is performing in an effort to multi-task. Though Sin-Dee and Dinah begin understandably at odds, they do bond over make-up and meth.
Razmik tries to make it to the show but arrives too late. Hoping to see Alexandra, he tells his family he needs to keep working on Christmas Eve. Suspicious, his mother-in-law hires a cab driver to track Razmik down and uncover the truth.
In the mean time, Sin-Dee, Alexandra, and Dinah have finally managed to track down Chester. Razmik has also caught up with our crew, along with his mother-in-law, wife, and child. It’s all about to go down at Donut Time.
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I tried really hard to like Sin-Dee, but she annoyed me quite a lot throughout the film. I liked Alexandra a lot better, and the dynamic between the two women made this worth watching–and Dinah makes a surprisingly fitting addition to the team. Sin-Dee was a bit of an impulsive drama queen, while Alexandra was off in the corner making snide remarks (which I relate to on a fundamental level).
Chester is a total sleaze, but does add some unexpected humor to the film, delivering lines like “You get my ass thrown out of donut time?!” with conviction. He’s not a likeable character but, like everyone in the film, feels multi-dimensional and real. I would’ve liked to see him suffer a bit more, honestly (evidence that I’ve become a full-blown sociopath?).
This is a beautifully shot film, and you forget completely that it’s known primarily as the movie shot entirely with iPhones. The characters are engaging and lively, and our two leads are absolutely the highlight.
Minor point of contention: I don’t remember the title being explained or anyone ever mentioning tangerines. I’m sure I’m being too literal here, but it drives me nuts that I don’t understand the title.
Would Christa share a donut or two with this one or drag it around town with only one shoe? Read her review here to find out!
This week’s film gives our feelings a break for once as we are transported to an oddly surreal dream world that may or may not be real, aka high school in 1970s Australia.
A girl’s 15th birthday party goes from awkwardly cringey to bizarrely surreal when a magical music box opens to another realm.
Greta has recently started at a new school and, rather than trying to make friends, seems to be trying her best to keep a low profile. Her plan fails when she is approached by two separate groups: first, Elliot (who is adorable and relatably enthusiastic about donuts), and then the stereotypical “cool” girls. Both groups want to fold her into their embrace, but Greta seems afraid to speak up about who she’d rather be friends with (though I’d usually encourage girls to stick together…always pick the friendship that begins with donuts).
Life at home seems fairly harmonious at first, but almost immediately the cracks begin to show. Greta’s father is constantly making terrible dad jokes and trying to stop his youngest child from growing up. Her mother throws her attention on her daughters as she doesn’t seem to like her husband’s sense of humor–or anything about him as a matter of fact. Greta’s older sister Genevieve throws the delicate balance off completely by coming home late with a really smooth boyfriend who smokes and tries to give off a bit of a James Dean vibe.
After school, Greta invites Elliott over and shows him her favorite thing, a music box passed on to her from her mother. She likes to imagine it’s from a secret realm. Hmmmmmmm…I wonder if perhaps this plot detail will be important in about 20 minutes.
Greta lives in fear of being the center of attention, so imagine her horror when her mother suggests throwing a big party for her birthday and inviting everyone at school. The party causes a major fight between her parents, so Greta eventually agrees to have the party to keep the peace.
When the dreaded day of the party arrives, her mother gives her a dress that is very cute but so not her style, and she’s deeply uncomfortable when others tell her she looks so beautiful and grown up.
As the party guests arrive, things begin to get slightly surreal with a pretty nice disco sequence. The party doesn’t seem to be the nightmare Greta imagined it would be. However, the cool girls arrive—two of whom are creepy twins who never say anything. Their gift for Greta is a cassette tape that plays a really mean song about her…which feels like a somewhat sociopathic move, honestly.
Humiliated, Greta retreats to her room. Her only real friend, Elliott, comforts her and also says he’d like to be more than friends. This is remarkably bad timing, which causes Greta to freak out and push him away, calling him a homo (not cool, Greta). Elliot is deeply offended that she considers this an insult in a way that I really appreciate.
To comfort herself, Greta opens up the music box, which seems to gain a life of its own and shocks her. When she wakes up, there’s a thing from the other realm there that has claimed the music box. It runs away into the woods (of course), and Greta gives chase.
Possibly not shockingly, things get really surreal from here on out. A woman who lives in the forest helps Greta navigate the woods and steer clear of the scary dog thing that’s pursuing her. It gets suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper Freudian when she encounters alternate versions of her mother and father, who are an ice queen and a sort of swamp guy, respectively. There’s also a really unsettling bit with Genevieve’s boyfriend, who has some sort of French alter-ego and comes on strong to Greta.
What does this all mean, and will Greta ever make it back to the party? Does she even want to make it back?
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
This is a very gentle coming of age story. Though it does tackle some heavier themes surrounding Greta’s home life and fear of attention, these receive only brief attention. I might complain about this if I were in a different mood, but avoiding anything too deep was a breath of fresh air with some very sweet moments and surreal scenes (admittedly with somewhat mixed results).
Elliott is one of my favorite teen characters ever now, though he is perhaps way too nice to be believed. I don’t care—I want to believe. I want Elliott to be my best friend.
The lack of depth is a bit frustrating at times—Greta quickly changes the subject when anyone tries to talk too much about the past, and the surreal scenes don’t really give us any insight into her psyche. At a certain point they do cross over into artsy film school BS.
It doesn’t help that the real and dream worlds are kept separate—it would have been nice to see them woven together better. Genevieve briefly alludes to what happened on her own 15th birthday, and as the music box is a gift from her mother, the whole experience could have been a shared experience. I would’ve LOVED it if there were more time for female relationships in this movie.
However, I enjoyed the aesthetic and this was just whimsical and sweet enough for me to enjoy.
Would Christa share a donut with this one or leave it to get lost in the woods? Find out by reading her review here!
This week’s film asks important questions, such as whether those who walk around in their underwear are the most free among us. Also if the universe is shaped like an apple or a sphincter. For real.
Buster’s Mal Heart
A mountain man who breaks into people’s vacation homes to survive cold winters has lived a very sad and rather non-linear life.
Buster isn’t having the best New Year’s ever. A fugitive running from the police for as yet undisclosed reasons, he seeks refuge in a cave in the woods. It doesn’t take long for us to learn that Buster has been living off of the land for years, surviving winter by breaking in to empty vacation homes. As New Year’s approaches, he makes increasingly erratic phone calls to local radio stations warning everyone that the inversion is coming. Though his crimes are relatively low-level, he is nonetheless considered armed and dangerous by the authorities.
Of course, this isn’t what Buster’s life was always like. Before his mountain man lifestyle, Buster’s name was Jonah, and he considered himself something of a worker drone. As a concierge, Jonah works overnight on low pay and little sleep. He dreams of buying a remote piece of land to live independently with his family. The current situation for the family is less than ideal—Jonah, his wife, and daughter live with his parents-in-law, who throw a lot of shade his way.
Things start to change when Jonah encounters a stranger at the hotel who approaches him in a suspiciously Christian-Slater-in-Mr. Robot kind of way. The stranger lives off the grid, with no ID or credit card, but needs a room for the night. Jonah initially denies this request, but finds himself listening to the stranger’s ideas. The stranger warns Jonah about Y2K and the inversion and proclaims himself the last free man. Instead of backing away slowly, Jonah eventually agrees to let the man stay.
Though Jonah loves his family, he feels something is wrong with his heart and fears becoming a slave to the system. He begins to buy into the stranger’s odd, conspiratorial perspective that the universe is shaped like a sphincter. When Y2K brings about the inversion, people will dive into that sphincter (from my understanding…?).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, his home life begins to crack, his professional life has been soul-crushing for a long time, and Jonah begins to have very dark hallucinations. What pushed him over the edge to become a roving mountain man? And will his history of minor crimes become all too serious when an elderly couple returns to find Buster in their house?
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I’m not sure I understood this one 100%, and there were times I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be funny? Having a sphincter-shaped universe seems like more of a comedy element, but most of this film’s content is decidedly heavier.
Rami Malek is great as our conflicted and complex lead, who has so many more layers than we realize at first. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for him even as [SPOILER] he does incredibly horrifying things. We let the narrative convince us pretty easily that Buster is a victim even as we see a violent, unstable side of his personality. The saddest part of this film is that he is a victim–but he also victimizes others. This film unexpectedly tackles mental health issues in a way that doesn’t blame anyone, though neither does it offer easy answers about living with them.
I’d still sign up for the mountain man lifestyle, though.
Would Christa listen to this one’s conspiracy theories or send it back to the cave where it belongs? Find out in her post here!
Time’s arrow marches on, as Beatrice is fond of reminding us during season 4 of BoJack Horseman. Like so many words of wisdom uttered through the course of the show, this phrase has been passed down from the family–along with emotional baggage, trauma, and deeply rooted bitterness. Though time’s arrow marches on, our characters regularly dwell on a past dominated by physical and verbal abuse, mental health crises, and feelings of powerlessness even as they long to return to the good old days.
Oh, right. And this is a comedy.
Though we begin the season with the titular BoJack MIA somewhere in the desert, our characters remaining in Hollywoo must keep calm and carry on. Or at least carry on.
Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter start things out on a sour note with his campaign for Governor of California. Both of Mr. Peanutbutter’s ex-wives, Jessica Biel and Katrina, are helping with the campaign, fueling Diane’s insecurity and amplifying her guilt over not supporting his political career. Writing pieces in opposition to Mr. Peanutbutter’s political stances gets clicks for the blog Diane now writes for but creates tension at home. Is there enough left of their marriage to keep them together?
While BoJack doesn’t appear at all in episode 1, he does of course return to Hollywoo eventually. After fixing up (and subsequently destroying) the summer home where BoJack vacationed with his parents, he returns to discover his long-lost (and previously unknown) daughter Hollyhock has tracked him down. His relationship with Hollyhock is complicated by the arrival of Beatrice, who moves in when she is no longer allowed to stay in her assisted living facility. BoJack’s determination to be a better person (horse) and avoid letting his daughter down is strong…but so is his desire to seek petty vengeance against his mother (now suffering from dementia). Let’s return to this one later because it is bleak. Bleak.
Meanwhile, Todd is up to his usual misadventures while learning to live with and accept his asexuality. After agreeing to a sham Hollywoo engagement and briefly becoming a fashion icon, Todd teams up with Mr. Peanutbutter for yet another ill-advised business proposal. Their latest venture is the horrifying marriage of clowning and dentistry, which is eventually shut down by the BBB. However, since it’s Todd, this failed business leads to another (equally horrifying) opportunity. This is a pretty good season for Todd, who even gets an episode paying tribute to his generous nature. Is this a turning point for Todd or will others take advantage of his good nature yet again?
Princess Carolyn, on the other hand, starts the season strong, but it becomes one of the worst for her on both a personal and professional level. Her relationship with Ralph Stilton begins to crack when his mouse family fails to offer her a warm welcome (and even sings a song about hating cats). Things unravel rather quickly in an episode in which a broken necklace is deeply symbolic (and even the framing device for this episode is meant to deceive you and destroy you emotionally). All of Princess Carolyn’s dreams crumble before her eyes as her greatest strength (her ability to always land on her feet) becomes an obstacle preventing her from starting a family and achieving her professional goals.
Don’t worry, though, I’ve saved the saddest storyline for last—Beatrice Horseman. Up until this season, she has been perhaps the most unsympathetic, horrific character on the show as one of the main reasons BoJack is so fucked up. I still remember the emotional impact of season 2’s opening episode, in which all of BoJack’s resolve to change his life and adopt a brand new attitude is crushed by one short phone call with his mother. Beatrice does still say and do terrible things in this season, but it’s hard to say as an elderly, ailing woman she deserves the treatment BoJack gives her. We see more insight into her childhood and married life than ever before, which explains a great deal of her psychological and emotional trauma.
While BoJack’s life clearly demonstrates the impact of bad mothers, we also see what happens when fathers are terrible: both BoJack’s father and grandfather. We see the soul-crushing messages Beatrice receives as a child about her intelligence (she has too much) and body (also too much). In her adult life, Beatrice holds the family together, gets her husband a job, and smooths over his (major) mistakes with no choice but to live bitterly with her regrets. Perhaps most devastatingly, BoJack will never know the full story, and he and his mother continue to bring out the worst in each other.
As usual, this season consistently brings smart social and political commentary (see the entirety of Mr. Peanutbutter’s celebrity political campaign, as well as episodes about fracking and gun violence). However, it’s at its strongest in the emotionally distressing way we’ve come to expect from BoJack during the latter half of the season. It divides almost evenly, taking a dark(er) turn with episode 6, “Stupid Piece of Shit.” We get insight into BoJack’s inner monologue, in which he constantly hurls verbal abuse at himself (his favorite insult being “you stupid piece of shit”). This is much too real for me and culminates in Hollyhock asking if the voice in your head ever goes away. (If only.)
It’s not an easy season to watch—as the series has progressed, we as the audience have maintained a great deal of sympathy for BoJack. However, there have been an increasing number of times when it’s become more challenging to make excuses for his damaging behavior—to Sarah Lynn, Penny, Herb, and his mother. Whether this pattern will continue with Hollyhock is a major question this season asks.
Possibly my only complaint this season is the relentless setting up of positive moments explicitly to knock them down. It works for the most part because of the nature of this show, but after seeing the 4th (and 5th and 6th and 7th) character experience a moment of happiness only to see it shredded to pieces a scene later, it becomes a bit played out. I started having an almost Pavlovian response to the sound of laughter or genuinely uplifting moments.
Always in the back of my mind during this season was how it will end (especially in light of season 3’s downer ending). This is one of the show’s saddest endings but its final moment is tinged with hope (spoiler: BoJack is SMILING [and it’s not for a scene]). The lives of our characters have certainly changed a great deal from the beginning of the season to the end, and several of them even grow to some degree. However, can these characters really change or will they fall back into repeating the same patterns? Will they ever feel complete or continue to be broken? Can they stop hurting themselves and the others around them? If you figure it out, let me know.
While I love every moment of watching BoJack, I have worried that watching these characters continue to make the same mistakes would grow stale. My fears were put to rest this season, which manages the same level of emotional devastation as usual without becoming monotonous. Though I am now an empty husk, I really loved this season as much as any of the others…you know, in that masochistic BoJack kind of way that demands a whiskey chaser, 7 pizzas, and too many apple fritters.
Watching films with a focus on mental health is a great idea, they said. Movies about serious emotional issues will in no way be too real or fill you with existential dread, they said.
Predictably, they were wrong. And by “they” I mean “we.”
This month returns us to an old favorite, Blog Free or Die Hard, which promises hours of mindless entertainment. Or at least no more films about mental health care facilities in the UK (for now).
What is the truth behind a small-town bank robbery that has left a trail of bodies in its wake? The answer may (or may not) surprise you.
As viewers, we see the story of a small-town bank robbery gone wrong as it unfolds in reverse. Sheriff Zeke’s concern at this point is finding his brother Andy, one of three suspects, before someone else does. Zeke seems to be the only competent, upright citizen in the entire town–a rather thankless job. As it turns out, Andy is hiding out in his own basement with the duffel bag full of cash he conspired to steal. Great plan…?
In the robbery’s aftermath, Zeke is shot, 2 people are dead, 2 suspects are on the run, and many people seem to know more than they’re revealing. Since the money in the vault was federally insured, FBI agents are involved with the investigation, though they create more problems than they solve.
Now on the run are Ed, the ringleader in all of this, and his wife Steph, who rendezvous with Andy to divvy up the cash and get out of town. That is, until the passenger in Steph’s car shoots Andy and drives away.
As the story unfolds, we see how the conspirators used blackmail and violence to complete their plan (despite their overall incompetence). It’s also clear Steph plays a much greater role than she initially appears to, lying to the police about threats from Ed and plans to flee to Mexico. Or is she…? Her relationship with Ed is tense, and she blames him for the death of their young son in an accident. Whose side is Steph really on?
Additionally, the judge is involved with the robbery as he’s being blackmailed over his much younger male lover just as he’s about to announce his campaign for Senate. Things don’t end well for quite a few characters who end up being loose ends in this plan…is the judge one of them?
Like any good noir story, the mystery becomes even hazier as we learn that literally everyone in this town is despicable.
Which all leads us to…what really happened the night of the robbery. It’s probably not what you think. Or maybe it is; I’m not a mind reader.
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Look, the biggest problem here is that I don’t know if this film is supposed to be funny or not. There was one moment I recall that made me laugh–in fact, it was almost vaudeville sort of moment when Andy asks Chris to check the radio after the robbery has occurred and Chris turns on the radio to a rather upbeat jazzy tune. There is unexpected humor throughout the film, but it doesn’t always feel at home.
The more I think about it, I wonder if this was a tactic to catch the viewer off-guard–would you really expect Rainn Wilson and Rob Corddry to work on a dark, gritty project with a dramatic twist? However, this never completely commits to being funny nor to being a clever film noir; it exists mostly in limbo.
I hoped for more of an IDFAHITWA vibe, so perhaps this was destined to fall short in my eyes. There’s no Melanie Lynskey (or Elijah Wood), and no one even remotely worth liking or rooting for. Almost everyone in this film turns out to be utterly incompetent or a complete sociopath. The female characters are also pretty sloppily written, and even the signature femme fatale manages to fall flat completely.
The more I hear the name Zeke, the more I like it. Potential name for my next cat.
Netflix really, really needs to add more film noir to its streaming collection. While this wasn’t terrible, I also wanted it to be so much better.