Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Catwalk, or: A Fuckton of Cats

Let’s not think about the fact that the first month of 2019 is nearly over.  Instead, let’s focus on it being a week of purrfectly groomed felines, pawsitively delightful looks of kitty disdain, and inspiring tails of overcoming obstaclaws.  Don’t worry–I’ve officially gotten the cat puns out of my system meow.  Now.

The Film:

Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit

The Premise:

This documentary takes an inside look into the world of professional cat shows, the people who make them possible, and the competition for that coveted 1st place ribbon.

The Ramble:

Handlers, breeders, judges, and, of course, kitties:  we’ll get to know many of the quirky characters who keep the professional cat show circuit going.

Among those are judges who describe competitors as “the kind of cat that gives you goosebumps” and remark that particular cats never have a hair out of place.  We also get to know some of the breeders who care deeply about the animals they raise.  Though they get a bad rap, the breeders shown here take painstaking care of their babies:  precise grooming, special diets of raw meat and chicken hearts, custom-built catios.  There are so many people making these cat shows happen that the mind boggles.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the story driving this film is the fierce competition to win at the individual cat shows and ultimately rack up enough points to be the overall best cat of the year.

The top contender at the beginning of the season is Bobby, a Turkish Angora shown by cat handler Kim.  Every cat has a benching space (aka space for their little luxury trailers), and cats are called up by number to queue up for individual judging.  Though grooming is important depending on the breed, it does boil down to a cat beauty contest as judged by the standards of each breed.

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While Bobby is a gorgeous cat, he runs into competition in the form of Oh La La, a red Persian making a comeback from retirement.  Her handler, Shirley, obviously takes great care with bathing and grooming the little ball of kitty fluff, resulting in stealing those 1st place ribbons from right under Bobby’s nose.  Kim and Shirley exchange some light-hearted banter, but it seems clear Kim is quite put out that her kitty’s chances of victory have vanished seemingly overnight.

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In addition to caring for and showing cats, Kim manages the additional hassle of coordinating a small local cat show.  It’s even more of a fiasco when the venue’s new management double books the space, and the time usually reserved to set up the cat show is now taken over by a wrestling event.  Additionally, many cats and their handlers are having bad luck with delayed flights, leading me to reflect in horror how much worse travel delays would be with a cat.  But the show must (and does) go on!

As the show season goes on, Bobby’s chances of victory narrow further with the arrival of another impeccably groomed cat, a Himalayan named Sandman.  When this cat steals 1st place, Oh La La is pushed to 2nd, and Bobby to 3rd.

Of course, it all comes down to the final show.  Which cat will take home the most important honor in the cat show community?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

First of all, the cat facial expressions in this film give me life.  The filmmakers play to their advantage the naturally sarcastic glares cats have mastered.  It’s truly a joy to watch these cats in their element.

 

We also get some insight into the many wheels that must turn for cat shows to exist, and it makes me appreciate how much is happening behind the scenes for everything to run smoothly.  I have a little bit more understanding for why all of the mushed-face cats always seem to do so well in these types of competitions too–the impeccable grooming and care for some of these breeds can factor into cat show decisions.

However, the film really plays up the rivalry between Kim and Shirley, which I don’t like so much.  Many of the participants rave about the lovely, supportive cat show community, yet the film really underplays this element in favor of stirring up drama.  It also seems to ridicule its subjects at times, and I’m really not cool with that.  Cat ladies make the world go ’round.

Was this mewsic to my darling blog wife’s ears or did it end up in the doghouse?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

And Breathe Normally, or: Cats Bring Us All Together

This week we’re leaping over to Iceland!  Don’t worry–our film is as bleak as its landscape.

The Film:

And Breathe Normally

The Premise:

A single mother in Iceland working as a border guard stops a woman with a forged passport, unknowingly changing both of their lives in unexpected ways.

The Ramble:

Lára is a struggling single mother to Eldar, whose father seems to be well out of the picture.  A recovering addict, Lára doesn’t have many people to lean on for help.  Having difficulty paying for groceries, let alone rent, Lára is relieved when a low-paying job as an airport border guard works out.

To give Eldar a friend to keep him company, Lára agrees to let him adopt a cat.  I’m so glad she does because the cat, in addition to being an important plot device, is so adorable.

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Things are starting to look up for the small but close family.  Lára, eager to impress the higher ups, manages to catch a tiny detail on a woman’s passport that likely means it’s a fake.  However, Lára begins to regret this choice as she has to follow through on this case, escorting the woman, Adja, to be questioned and ultimately detained.  Lára seems to be a naturally compassionate person, catching onto some subtle body language that reveals Adja is traveling with her daughter and sister.

After a brief trial, Adja is sentenced to 30 days in prison and must pay all legal fees associated with her case.  Later, the court will determine whether Adja will be allowed to continue on to her destination, Toronto, or be deported.

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Meanwhile, Lára and Eldar are evicted from their apartment and forced to make do with sleeping in the car.  As Lára sleeps, Eldar lets kitty Musi out to explore.  Not his wisest choice.  After losing sight of Musi, Eldar goes looking for his lost cat, sending Lára into a panic when she wakes up.

When Lára does find Eldar, he is with Adja, who has found the missing cat.  Feeling awkward, Lára bundles Eldar up without a glance back.  That is, until Eldar points out it would be polite to at least give Adja a ride since she reunited him with Musi.

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Lára returns and takes Adja back to the apartments where she is living in limbo.  After this ordeal, Lára and Eldar sleep with the car parked behind the building.  When Adja realizes this situation, she invites Lára and Eldar to sleep in her room, where they can at least stretch out and get warm.

The guarded Adja reveals she is fleeing Guinea-Bissau as a lesbian who was violently attacked when her sexuality was discovered.  Her partner did not survive the assault, and Adja fears returning to her home would be a death sentence.

When Adja gets the terrible news that she will be deported to Guinea-Bissau, Lára devises a plan to help her.  Can these two ladies beat a system so heavily stacked against them?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This film builds slowly to a beautiful ending that is compassionate to both of our leads.  Adja is of course far from the job-stealing, drug-smuggling murderer that so many people are keen to believe of immigrants and refugees.  Like all refugees, Adja leaves behind all that is familiar because her life is at risk–not that being threatened with death is the only reason countries should accept more immigrants into the fold.  Lára is also very human, dealing with her own struggles but still showing a great deal of compassion for another woman facing circumstances beyond her control rather than being a nameless, faceless border guard.

The disadvantage here is the slow build means it does take a long time for the bond between Adja and Lára to form.  I do wish we had gotten more time with them, though the lasting impact of their chance encounter is highlighted by the short time they spend together.

Would my blog wife stamp this one’s passport or sound the alarm?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Mr. Roosevelt, or: Lost in Austin

Another week, another pick that we don’t have to explain to you.  Due to the nature of our free spirits (and inability to make decisions), we’re kicking off 2018 with whatever the hell we feel like watching.  This week’s film has significantly fewer sharks.

The Film:

Mr. Roosevelt

The Premise:

Cats.  Brunch.  Hipsters.  Must be Austin, TX.

The Uncondensed Version:

After Emily learns her cat Mr. Roosevelt is in poor health, she jets back to Austin right away.  Having set off for LA several years before, she left Mr. Roosevelt in the care of her now ex-boyfriend, Eric.  In this time of crisis for the cat parents, Emily crashes with Eric and his serious girlfriend Celeste.

By the time Emily makes it to Austin, Mr. Roosevelt has passed on from this life.  A group of Celeste and Eric’s hipster friends have a dinner out and honor Mr. Roosevelt.  At the dinner, Emily learns Eric is focusing on becoming a realtor rather than pursuing his dreams of being a musician.

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Hell is other hipsters.

Emily hoped to have more to show for her time in LA, but so far she’s doing cringey auditions, editing videos with a group of men who may or may not be part of a real company, and coasting by on the popularity of several of her Youtube videos.  When Celeste asks how things are in LA, Emily freaks out and causes a food-related accident.  Jen, a server there, helps Emily and befriends her, leading to several hipster adventures.

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IDK where you go to catch up with your friends if not the women’s restroom…

After aforementioned hipster adventures, Emily gets a call from the vet’s office that Mr. Roosevelt’s ashes are ready to pick up.  Unfortunately, Celeste, who was also a parent to their cat child, arrives first and claims the ashes.  She invites Emily to a brunch she’s planning in Mr. Roosevelt’s honor, which makes Emily lose her shit.

Eric helpfully takes Emily out to get tacos, and they later go to a party where Jen is playing with her band, the Leeks.  What is meant to be a fun night out takes a dive when Eric and Emily have a heart-to-heart about their breakup, shattered dreams, dismal future, etc, etc.

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TACOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOS

The next day is the brunch for Mr. Roosevelt, and let’s just say it does not go well.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Reasonably entertaining with some funny moments (the brunch is an exercise in the absurd), this film suffers mostly because Emily is so unlikeable for 95% of it.  She does find some redemption at the end, but it feels like too little too late.  Most of the time, she bicycles around doing self-destructive things that have consequences for other people, then acting surprised when there’s not a lot of sympathy being tossed her way.  I usually relate to the feeling of being an eternal fuck-up, but it takes Emily a reeeeeeeeeeeeeally long time to stop acting like an asshole.

I imagine this is a bit of a Portlandia for Austin, though all of the time Emily spends judging hipsters feels a bit hypocritical because she’s just a scarf and an oversized pair of plastic-rimmed glasses away from being the biggest hipster in Texas.

Jen is fucking cool, and I wish a lot more of the focus had been on her friendship with Emily.  Sadly, it takes Emily a really long time to appreciate when she’s got a good thing going.

Would my blog wife toast this one with mimosas or bicycle far away at top speed?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Grey Gardens, or: The Hallmark of Aristocracy Is Responsibility

We’re rounding out January with a classic that we have both officially watched now.  No more looking away uncomfortably at parties when someone asks if we’ve seen this week’s pick–not for these bloggers.  And btw, if you’re not attending the kind of party where Grey Gardens comes up in conversation…you are probably leading a quite interesting and fulfilling life.

The Film:

Grey Gardens

The Premise:

The classic documentary about the aunt and cousin of Jackie O who lived together in a decaying old house features much bickering, singing, flag waving, eating corn, and so many cats.

 

The Uncondensed Version:

Big Edie and Little Edie live together in an old mansion that has fallen into disrepair since their days of being wealthy, high society types ended.  The two women eventually cleaned up the house with the help of Little Edie’s cousin Jackie O, but still seem to be constantly on the verge of eviction.

It’s really difficult to gather an accurate picture of what happened in the past because of the constant bickering and one-upmanship of the two women, but it’s easy to sympathize with them.  Both seem to believe the lifestyle they assumed would be theirs forever is still relevant and sustainable.

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One sustainable lifestyle choice: wearing big floppy hats.

Big Edie achieved some success as a singer in her prime along with her accompanist Gould.  Little Edie herself was a talented dancer…so there are A LOT of song and dance routines in this, some more cringey than others.  Their sudden financial decline was a result of Little Edie’s father, Phelan, leaving the family and getting what she calls a fake Mexican divorce(???).  Her point being that the Edies, as Catholics, do not acknowledge the divorce, but rather consider it a separation.

It’s really never clear to me what (if any) support Phelan provided to his family after leaving (very little, it would appear), and where Little Edie’s brothers are in all of this.  She mentions 2 brothers, but they never seem to visit or even attend Big Edie’s birthday party.  God fucking dammit, men.  Do better.

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Here’s a cat to make you feel better.

Little Edie reveals she always wanted to marry and had many proposals from well-to-do gentlemen back in her day, which were all sabotaged by her mother.  Likewise, as she was about to get her big break in NYC when she had to return home to care for her mother.  It’s believable, but it also begs the question of the role of fear and comfort in Little Edie’s life.  She seems just as reluctant to leave the house as her mother and gets downright paranoid about someone secretly coming in to the house and moving her books.  Though she talks constantly about returning to NYC and never looking back, she hasn’t done so in the decades she’s lived with her mother in Grey Gardens.  Besides which, she seems unable and possibly unwilling to support herself, claiming she wants to be free and supported.

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“Free and supported” sounds like an ad campaign for bras or elastic-free underwear. 

This mother-daughter relationship is extremely complicated, as Little Edie has cared for her mother for years but also blames her mother because she feels she has missed out on the opportunity to really live and enjoy life.  Big Edie oscillates between insisting she had men to take care of her and admitting she didn’t want Little Edie to leave her alone.

Little Edie is a self-described staunch character—and it becomes clear her mother matches this description too.  The two women appear to engage in a battle of wills daily, but make amends just as often.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m not sure that’s a fair rating, but there’s something deeply unsettling here that is difficult to shake.  The documentary itself is fascinating to watch, but I found myself alternating between the type of fascination from listening to someone tell a really great story and the type you experience when you’re watching a train wreck.

There are many shots of the raccoons and cats that inhabit the house, and of the house itself.  It’s beautiful but covered in ivy and has gigantic holes and visible structural problems, which seems to be a metaphor for the Edies and their mental/emotional state.  Both are very sharp but live in a world they’ve created entirely separate from reality, willfully blind to how dire their situation is in many ways.

In a scene that captures this tension perfectly, Little Edie remarks that one of their many cats is going to the bathroom behind a beautifully painted portrait of a young Big Edie.  Instead of becoming upset, Big Edie remarks she’s glad someone is doing something they want to do.  It’s a moment full of humor, tenderness, heartbreak, and disgust all at once, and the very essence of this film—simultaneously in horror and admiration of these staunch characters.

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Aforementioned cat giving zero fucks.

Was my blog wife staunchly in favor or opposed to the multi-cat lifestyle depicted in this film?  Find out here!

 

Arts and Crafts, books

And Now for Something Completely Different, or: Making a Book Stash

Inspired by Hayley’s project (in turn inspired by Miss Vicky Viola‘s blog), I decided to make a book stash from an old volume of poetry I bought years ago at a book sale.  So yes, my 4/20 post is about a place where you can stash (among other things) your weed.

Supplies:

  • A hardcover book that holds no emotional attachment for you (that part is really important)
  • White glue (I used Elmer’s; I think more arts and crafts-y people use Mod Podge or perhaps a glue personally melted down from horses [gross, sorry])
  • A paintbrush (again, that you have no emotional attachment to)
  • Pen/pencil
  • Ruler
  • X-Acto knife
  • Plastic wrap
  • Drill
  • Heavy book and/or telephone book (if you still get one)

The Process:

  1.  Wrap the front cover and first 5 or so pages in plastic wrap to avoid everything sticking together in one big mess.  Do the same with the back cover and last 5ish pages.  You may want to wrap a few extra pages if, like me, you are sometimes overeager with a blade.20160101_173518.jpg
  2.  Hold the book closed and brush glue on all three sides of the pages. Miss Vicky Viola recommends thin, even coats over a thick blobby coat (paraphrasing).20160101_174717.jpg
  3.  Leave to dry for at least half an hour under several heavy books.20160101_182053.jpg
  4. After it has dried, make a box indicating where you will cut.  I measured about an inch from each side, though others have advised closer to 2 inches.20160101_173534.jpg
  5. To ensure even lines, use a drill to make holes in each corner of your box.  Drill only about 3/4 or into the pages to be sure you don’t drill all the way through.

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    Unintended advertising for Esther Price chocolates.
  6. Start cutting!  (This takes forfuckingever.)  Use your ruler and X-Acto knife to cut a few pages at a time, carefully lifting out pages as you go.20160102_171333.jpg
  7. Keep going until you’ve cut out 3/4 of the pages (full disclosure:  I went a bit overboard and cut out way more than 3/4).  Or, you know, stop and eat some ice cream.20160420_210829.jpg
  8. After you’re satisfied with your work (or until your hand starts cramping), coat the book with glue again.  Coat the inside pages where you have cut, around those 1 inch (or more) margins, and along the 3 edges of the book.

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    I don’t have pictures for this stage, so here’s an artsy picture from Unsplash.
  9. To tidy up the top page, glue down one of the front pages you had wrapped in plastic wrap.  Let it dry under heavy books again, then cut a hole in that first page. (I feel like this step didn’t make a whole lot of difference for me, but at this point the X-Acto knife had become almost an appendage and my cutting was probably not as precise as it could have been.)
  10. Let the glue dry completely, and DONE.

Important Notes:

  1. Do this only with books you have absolutely no emotional attachment to. This is harder than it sounds.  I spent nearly 2 years sending journals to their inevitable deaths, and I still felt insanely guilty cutting into this book of American poetry.  Even though it’s been sitting unread on a shelf for 6 years.
  2. You can use your book stash to store valuables, secret documents, or (if you’re me) shit your cat usually bats off end tables (coasters, remotes, laser pointer).20160402_135130.jpg
  3. Also I’m telling you from a completely objective perspective that these are 10,000x cooler when you use old books or books that are deliberately designed to look old. Also a good use of Twilight (I acknowledge that Twilight jokes are about as original as criticizing the presidency of George W. Bush).

I had fun making this, but don’t get used to it on this blog.  I’d rather be making overly critical and borderline inappropriate comments about films that are embarrassingly aware of how terrible they are.

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Barbara, or: There’s a Lot of Good Hair in East Germany

New year, new tag: Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab 2016! In approximately 6 weeks, the collab will be 1 year old! Sniffle. I’m so proud of you, blog collab.

My goal was to start out J&CGBC with a bang, but I may have inadvertently picked a whimper.  I TRIED, okay?!

The Film:

Barbara

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

The titular character, a doctor in 1980s East Germany, arrives in a small town for mysterious reasons. Hint: it has to do with communism.

The Uncondensed Version:

As Barbara arrives in the small East German town, it becomes clear that there are 2 types of people here: those who are friendly and interested, and those who irrationally hate Barbara for being a stranger. There is actually really only one person in the former category: the doctor with really nice hair who smokes. But it’s 1980s East Germany, so all of the doctors smoke.

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[Insert inappropriate doctor joke here]
One of the other doctors says Barbara doesn’t have many friends since her incarceration. Incarceration—say what??? Do tell us more.

So the next day, Good Hair Doctor continues to make friendly gestures while Barbara remains aloof. This is how their relationship goes for most of the film.

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Riding in cars with good hair, all around.

After work, the landlady introduces herself and says she has to show Barbara the cellar right then and there. Possibly because of our recent-ish viewing of Rosemary’s Baby, this scene freaked me the fuck OUT. DON’T TALK TO ANY OF YOUR NEIGHBORS EVER, BARBARA.

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NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

Anyway…this doesn’t end with the birth of Satan’s baby, so my fears all came to naught. Barbara sort of bicycles around a lot and looks mysterious.

There is some sort of exchange Barbara participates in every week or so in which she receives quite a lot of money in exchange for leaving some unknown parcel hidden by a cross in the middle of nowhere. She also meets up with her lover, some blonde guy who is not as attractive as the other doctor and likes to have sex outside. The two are planning to go West together soon.

However, complications arise because it’s East Germany. Barbara spends a lot of time discussing a Rembrandt painting with the doctor. More’s the point, she gets to know a teenager who is pregnant and at risk of having her baby taken by the government. Plus she’ll end up in a communist extermination camp—probably not the most fun ever.

Barbara FINALLY makes out with Good Hair Doctor just before she prepares to leave for the West, but it’s kind of a “meh” scene.  They do ride bicycles together, though, which is pretty damn adorable.

Okay, I sort of wasn’t paying the most attention ever at this point b/c I was also shopping for end tables at the same time. I think I’ve settled on round nesting end tables.

The point is, there is growing tension between Barbara’s plan to escape East Germany and her attachment to the town and its people. And by “people” I mean literally just the two mentioned above, as everyone else in the town is kind of terrible.  But still with hair so good it’s unreal.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I probably should’ve given this one more attention, but end tables are important. This is one I’d been meaning to watch for a while, and when Christa told me this was on several lists of feminist films, it sealed the deal. However, plot. I could’ve stood a bit more.

On the bright side, I think Bertha Mason enjoyed this week’s film.

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Either that or the fuzzy blanket. But let’s say it was the film, shall we?

Does Christa think this one is worth being sent to a communist extermination camp for?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Wolfpack, or: Cereal Boxes and Yoga Mats

Christa has decided to ramp up the classiness of the blog collab with our first foray into documentary. Bear with me as I’ve never reviewed a documentary except maybe as a school assignment.

You will probably want to read Christa’s review.  Not required reading, but it should be.

The Film:

The Wolfpack

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

In a small apartment on the Lower East Side, seven siblings who aren’t allowed to go outside live under the rule of a controlling father. This is almost a fairy tale, isn’t it?

The Uncondensed Version:

Homeschooled and permitted to leave their apartment on rare occasions (under adult supervision), the Angulo siblings reenact their favorite movies to pass the time.

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Exhibit A: Reservoir Dogs

It’s quite impressive, as they have little access to technology and equipment. One of the brothers writes down every line as he watches films and types out scripts on a typewriter. He also makes a Batman costume from cereal boxes and yoga mats and talks about the magic of film. It’s quite adorable.

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Seriously…cardboard and yoga mats.

Their parents are free spirits, giving the children Sanskrit names, long hair, and the sense of being a tribe. Or, as one of the brothers puts it, it’s like a prison. The tribal mentality seems to come from a rejection of the world and their father’s belief in his own enlightenment. This would be cooler if he weren’t so controlling and abusive to their mother.

However, the siblings use the power of film to escape until they begin to venture out on their own when the eldest is 15. As you might expect, the decision to go out exploring leads to some big changes in the way they see the world. The Angulos try to balance their longing for new experiences with the fear of strangers and the outside world instilled in them for the entirety of their lives.

I think the power of this documentary rests with getting to know the Angulo siblings and admiring how genuinely sweet and introspective they are, so I’m going to stop.

Also they have a cat.

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Cat!

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Quite moving, and those siblings are so adorable it hurts.

It’s so hard not to want to punch the father in the face, esp. when he starts talking about Jesus and forgiveness in the context of him being the Jesus figure, essentially.  It is the absolute worst part of this film.

Thankfully, this documentary focuses on the siblings and their creative power, which is really much more interesting than yet another controlling, emotionally manipulative middle-aged dude.

Does Christa agree? Find out here!