Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

How to Talk to Girls at Parties, or: Zan-adu

This month takes us not to new cities, countries, or worlds, but new galaxies.  Time to finally take up stargazing because we’re ready to kick off Alien August!

The Film:

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

The Premise:

A teen trying to get his punk band off the ground unknowingly joins an alien party for an evening, leading to shenanigans.

The Ramble:

1970s London.  Punk.  Eyeliner.  Spiky hair.  Aliens?  Aliens.

Enn is a wannabe punk rocker with his small group of misfit friends.  No one seems to like his little gang, as their fellow punks think they’re posers, while everyone else thinks they’re hoodlums.

After embarrassing himself in front of the entire Croydon punk scene at a concert, Enn has also struck out with Boadicea, a punk with the connections to get their band into the limelight.

A woman with bleach-blonde hair and a punk aesthetic smokes a cigarette.

At least they have the after party to look forward to…until the trio become hopelessly lost while trying to find the party.  Upon hearing strange music they’ve never experienced the likes of, Enn and his pals follow the sounds to a different party–an alien party.

Unbeknownst to any of the 3, they all have a good time grooving with the aliens, getting some hot alien action, and meeting intriguing alien girls.  Enn feels a connection with Zan, an alien in the form of a teenager who wants to see and experience human life in an authentic way.

Unfortunately, the other aliens disapprove of Zan’s actions and even believe she will stir up trouble.  After partying all night, Zan meets Enn’s mother as well as one of her fellow aliens, who sort of possesses the body of Enn’s mother to communicate?

A group of four women stand with hands on hips; they are wearing skin-tight orange and black outfits with orange patches at the breast and crotch area.

When Enn and Zan return to Boadicea’s undergound punk club, a misunderstanding leads her to believe Zan is a big deal in the American scene.  As a result, Zan accidentally becomes the lead singer of a punk band for the night.

A young man and woman at a house party face each other, screaming into microphones.

However, her night goes off the rails when other aliens crash the party and she decides to do a little much carpe diem-ing in defiance.  Overhearing some rather sinister plans, Enn becomes convinced Zan is part of a cannibalistic cult that will kill and eat its own.

Calling in a favor from Boadicea, Enn assembles a punk army to defeat the aliens and save Zan. Does she even need saving, though?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

The coherence level is low here, but there are just enough charming touches to almost make up for it.  There are some crazy, nonsensical sequences, but I don’t hate them–the energy is great and feels drawn from a genuine love of punk music and culture.  Honestly, the plot is kind of unnecessary and not nearly as fun as just watching punk and alien cultures collide.

The highlights here are the two main ladies.  Elle Fanning’s mannerisms are endearing and fun and avoid the trope of the logic-driven, emotionless alien.  I do love that she keeps asking Enn to see the punk.  And can we please talk about punk Nicole Kidman dressed more or less as David Bowie in Labyrinth?  Because it’s just as incredible as it sounds.

Was this the dark punk rock dream of my blog wife or a total poser?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Feminist February: The Punk Singer

This week’s feature in Feminist February takes us into documentary territory.  Christa’s pick, which may not surprise you when I tell you it’s the Kathleen Hanna documentary.

The Film:

The Punk Singer

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Documentary following Kathleen Hanna, the Riot Grrrl movement, and her decision to quit the scene in 2005.

The Uncondensed Version:

Editor’s note:  I knew very few concrete facts about Kathleen Hanna prior to this film.  What can I say—Christa is the cool punk riot grrrl of our relationship.

Our film opens with Kathleen performing angry, intense slam poetry.  Her performance captures the focus of this documentary and her career—it’s all about message over form, and being empowered to have a voice.

One of the sticking points for Kathleen is how her childhood gets twisted in the media.  Admittedly her father was a bit of a jerk and was sexually inappropriate to Kathleen (in her own words).  Meanwhile, her mother did things like play the trust game and let her fall!  This is literally what happened in Wetlands, and the mother in that was awful!

A woman sits outside in a chair, wearing a sailor hat.
Not sure this image is relevant, but Kathleen Hanna in a sailor hat.

Kathleen gets involved with feminism and its expression via art while a college student.  After her best friend is assaulted in their house, Kathleen’s feminist rage is awakened, and everything she creates puts voice to that rage.

When she’s asked to form a band, she recognizes the opportunity to spread her message.  This is Bikini Kill.  As in We Are the Best, lack of musical experience is not an obstacle.

So Kathleen does several (actually way more than several) incredible things while part of Bikini Kill.  She starts the “girls to the front” thing, which encourages women to find safe spaces at her concerts.  Oh, and basically comes up with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” while wasted with Kurt Cobain.  And begins Riot Grrrl meetings, writing a manifesto, and encouraging other women to write their own Riot Grrrl manifestos.

An image from a feminist 'zine that reads "No we are not paranoid. No we are not manhaters. No we are not worrying too much. No we are not taking it too seriously."

However, her relationship with the press is dismally bad, she has little money despite rising fame, and Bikini Kill is not getting along well as a whole.  She also gets death threats and a punch in the face from Courtney Love (for no apparent reason).

Kathleen is able to find some happiness by recording a solo album, Julie Ruin, which deliberately sounds like it was made in a girl’s bedroom.  I love the way she describes girl’s rooms as creative spaces, and this album is a way to reach out and connect those space.  She also pursues a relationship with a Beastie Boy.

All good things come to an end, which is most decidedly true for Bikini Kill.  Kathleen then starts Le Tigre, which she describes as a band creating politically radical content that you can dance to.  I can’t even count the number of times “Deceptacon” has gotten stuck on repeat in my head.

Members of the band Bikini Kill pose -- 2 young women and one young man, all wearing black and white.
Who took the bomp, indeed.

Le Tigre is doing really well and off on world tours when Kathleen abruptly quits.  As it turns out, she had been getting sick on tour really frequently.  She is eventually diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease, which became much worse as it went untreated.  Her doctor tells us that sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, and it’s quite heartbreaking to see the toll it takes on Kathleen.  After having fought so hard for control of her life, she is in a lot of pain and has little control of it at times.

However, we do end strong with Kathleen’s words:  “People don’t have to believe in feminism, but they shouldn’t get in my fucking way.”

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Watching this documentary made me really wish I were the kind of person who gets interviewed as a premier expert on punk.

A woman stands outside on the open balcony of a building, gesturing emphatically.
This lady was my fave for how many times she used the word “fuck.”

And also made me want to watch We Are the Best, but literally every film we watch right now makes me want to watch We Are the Best again.

I have so much respect for Kathleen Hanna battling both rampant sexism and Lyme disease; both are horrific.  I got super emotional at the end because I can’t deal with people crying at this point and I had no clue how awful Lyme disease can be.  This is an incredibly empowering documentary, whether you’re into punk or not.  You may have to remind yourself that it’s not okay to break your keyboard on a man’s skull, though.  At least if you get caught.

Did Christa embrace the feminist rage or will our difference of opinion break up the band (why is this even a question)?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

If I Stay (Please Don’t)

Christa and I have time to kill at the moment (always a dangerous thing), so we’ve decided to make the next couple of weeks about whatever we want them to be. To borrow (steal) from Christa, it’s Free For All Fortnight, aka Blog Free Or Die Hard, aka I must always have 1,000 alternate titles for everything we do. Christa’s kicking off this limited edition of the collab with If I Stay. Check out her review here.

The Film:

If I Stay

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

According to Netflix, “A promising cellist. A tragic car crash. A choice to pursue her dreams or to follow the white light that beckons.”

The Uncondensed Version:

I don’t think there’s any way to hold back my annoyance with this film, so let’s just be up front about it, shall we?

One of the first things our protagonist/narrator says is “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon’s biggest regret was that he ever uttered those words. Our quote/narration/every damn thing about this movie sets up the choice Mia will have to make about (spoiler alert) whether to live or die (that can’t seriously be a spoiler, though, right? Even if you never saw any of the promos for this film, surely you can guess this movie is about more than whether Mia should stay at a party or go home and watch Netflix [always choose Netflix, Mia]).

A teenage girl in a blonde wig and leopard print outfit smiles at a boy at a party.
It might be fun to dress as Debbie Harry for a Halloween party, but it’s not as fun as Netflix.

The structure of the film alternates between the life Mia had before the car accident that leaves her in a coma and the aftermath that determines whether she decides to live.

Let’s take a look at reasons Mia has to live:

  1. Adoring family, made up of former punk rocker parents, little brother, grandparents, and various punk friends of Mia’s parents
  2. Love of the cello, classical music, and possible Juilliard acceptance
  3. Rocker boyfriend, Adam, who is, according to Mia, soooooooooooooooooooooooo out of her league

And reasons to give up:

  1. Family decimated by car crash
  2. Even if accepted to Juilliard, most likely career path is performing on subway cars
  3. Adam = douche

I’m sorry, but we have to talk about Adam. Partly because he’s vitally important to the plot but mostly because I just fucking hate him. Adam takes an interest in Mia even though she’s a quiet cellist and he’s the lead singer/guitarist of a (high school) rock band and “already was somebody.”

So Adam and Mia date and fall in love and have sex in a shed, which looks way more comfortable/romantic than it would be in real life. Adam is so smooth and utters such classic lines as “The you you are now is the same you I’m in love with.” (WHAT?) However, obstacles abound when Adam’s rock career takes off and he’s…still dating a high school student. (They can make it work, you might think optimistically. CLING TO YOUR FANTASIES, YOU NAÏVE FOOL.) Meanwhile, Mia keeps her Juilliard audition to herself as acceptance to the school would put 3,000 miles between the two. When Adam hears about the audition, he handles it really well by agreeing to a sudden week-long tour. Apparently he wants to be a rock star without ever having to leave Portland. Dude, have you never heard of concert tours? Fuck this guy, Mia. This is a toxic relationship if he can’t be happy for your successes.

A teen boy stands by a girl's open locker, which is decorated with multiple stickers that read "I Heart Yo Yo Ma."
Also doesn’t know who Yo-Yo Ma is. Not the best sign.

Since he’s manipulative as fuck and can’t handle Mia having her own autonomy, Adam breaks up with her and says they can’t do long-distance because it’s like dating a ghost. Honestly, a movie about a long-distance relationship with an actual ghost would’ve been much more interesting than this film.

So Mia and Adam do this aggravating on-again/off-again thing forever. The first time they make up, Adam apologizes by putting up images in her room of the ceiling where she’ll be doing her Juilliard audition WITHOUT HER KNOWLEDGE OR PERMISSION. He also gives her a cello/guitar bracelet and rather condescendingly asks “Do you get it?”


The Critique:

This is reasonably spoiler-y, but IDGAF. If you still want to watch this movie after reading my review and Christa’s review, I feel sorry for you. Based on the structure of this film, I couldn’t help thinking that Mia had to basically trade almost every member of her family to be with Adam. Mia needs a t-shirt that reads “My entire family died in a car crash, and all I got was this stupid boyfriend.” The worst part is I didn’t even care about Mia and her suffering because everyone in this film was so bland. I got a teensy bit emotional during a scene between Mia and her crusty grandfather (played by Stacy Keach?!?!). All other bits of this movie made me feel I have a heart of stone.

An older man driving a car talks to his granddaughter.
Likes: plaid shirts. Dislikes: punk music, feelings.

Basically every 10 mins I thought, “Is this over yet?” and/or “Why am I not watching Save the Last Dance?” or “Why isn’t Save the Last Dance on Netflix???” Also about a high school girl trying to get in to Juilliard while dating a guy whose musical tastes are considered too mainstream. However, Sean Patrick Thomas was super adorable and supportive, unlike stupid Adam.

One positive thing about this film: how ridiculously composed Chloë Grace Moretz is. She was maybe 16 or 17 during the filming of this movie but brings a maturity to the role that I’m not 100% sure I have.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Tempted to go 1/5, but the last film I can remember giving that rating to was Gummo, and at least no cats died in the events of this film.

I feel watching We Are the Best! again would have been more entertaining and true to the spirit of punk.

See if Christa’s rage matches my own here!

EDIT: GUYS, THERE WAS A SAVE THE LAST DANCE 2(?!?!?!?!). I suppose they couldn’t retroactively change the original film’s title to Save the Penultimate Dance.

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

To State the Obvious: We Are the Best!

Christa and I have decided to take an international journey, and we may just never come back. This week, I picked We Are the Best! Not only because it’s about teen punk rockers, but because we are the best, which I think should be reflected in our film choices and blog post titles more frequently. See Christa’s review here!

The Film:

We Are the Best!

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Swedish tomboys start a punk band with “the weird religious one” in the ‘80s.

The Trailer:

Okay, I was looking at my stats for the past year (almost!), and it appears the only video anyone has played is Peter Gabriel’s original song for Babe: Pig in the City. I can’t be your primary provider of Peter Gabriel content, people. So I quit. If you really want to watch a trailer for this film, use the fucking search bar on Youtube.

The Uncondensed Version:

Bobo and Klara, punks, tomboys, and all-around badasses, are 13-year-old best friends who don’t particularly fit in with the rest of their classmates. Girls their age are pretty damn mean, older boys are complete assholes (they call 13 year olds the c word. 13 YEAR OLDS), and teachers apparently do very little about any of this (I guess anything goes in Swedish schools).

two girls with short hair and over-sized sweaters play drums
I love that Bobo looks like a tiny university professor. Or, now that I think about it, kind of like Steven Coogan as Mole in The Wind in the Willows.

Instead of getting discouraged, Bobo and Klara remain confident…so confident, in fact, that they start a punk band despite total lack of any musical skills whatsoever.

Though both of the girls resent their parents equally (they’re 13, after all), Bobo secretly adores Klara’s close-knit family, whose father tries to jam with them on his clarinet and older brother gives Bobo hair-styling tips. Seriously, I might be a little in love with Klara’s older brother myself because he says her hair looks great as it is, but also teaches her to spike her hair.

a teenage boy tells a girl standing in front of a mirror, "You look great. Your hair is great."
Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo damn cute.

Bobo is living with her possibly bipolar or at least majorly depressed mother, whose boyfriend Lasse (not Lassie) just broke up with her. I have never wanted to adopt anyone except maybe Bobo (okay, fine, also Billy Elliot). She offers to make her mom some tea or hot chocolate and reminds her eating is important.

So anyway…back to the band. The girls want to play their angry punk song about their gym teacher in the school’s fall concert, but all of the spots are full. Though the concert is basically what you would expect from middle schoolers, there is one really talented girl, Hedvig, who plays folksy/Christiany music on her guitar (and gets booed).

Bobo and Klara ask her to join their band…and by join they basically mean be the talent and teach them how to actually play their instruments.

Klara is kind of a jerk because she’s a proud atheist and keeps haranguing Hedvig about believing in God.

a teenage girl with long blonde hair looks skeptically at a girl with a mohawk who tells her "It's about hanging God, because he's a fascist"

Hedvig is possibly the most patient person ever because she puts up with this and also teaches them how to play. She’s not even mad when they give her a punk haircut, though her mother is a different story. This all blows over and they have the cutest dance party ever.

3 teenage girls with short hair dance together, singing "Or perhaps you'll settle for any kind of crappy job"
I just love them.

They decide to get serious and raise money for an electric guitar by lying about having poor and/or drug addict parents. Women after my own heart, they buy ice cream and candy instead.

All of this is going rather well until the last third of the movie, in which the girls meet a boy punk band and Bobo becomes an awkward 3rd wheel.

I didn’t like this part of the film, so I wasn’t paying the most attention ever. I feel for you, Bobo. Boys suck.

The Critique:

Based on the first hour or so, I would’ve given this film 5/5. I really felt for Bobo, and Klara was fucking hilarious. I wish this film had continued to focus on the friendship between the two, their developing friendship with Hedvig, and their family relationships. Instead, for the last half hour, we get this relationship angst that creates drama between Bobo and Klara, which fucking sucks.

Also, as a non-Swede, there are some cultural references that I don’t understand at all and I just kind of accepted are nonsense like whenever the Swedish chef speaks (sorry, Swedes).

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Because Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig are possibly my favorite teens ever. Girl power forever.

See what Christa, the Klara to my Bobo, thought of this one here at her blog!