Happy New Year! (It’s still alright to say that almost a week later, right?)
So, how are those resolutions going? If you’re already faltering in your commitment to yourself to become a better you, watch this video of a blind skater to motivate you to keep going.
If you’ve already said “screw it” to whatever lofty goals you set for yourself, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But if you feel like saving face, doing a few things on this list will probably make you feel better.
While half the nation might feel lousy that there’s a suspect president set to take control, there’s still hope for cool shit to happen in 2017. Of course, nobody knows for sure what the future holds, but you can count on the cannabis industry to keep growing.
So, get ready. And if you already feel stressed out, take a break by watching a few movies.
Warning: May contain spoilers.
The Model (2016)
Starring: Maria Palm, Ed Skrein, Charlotte Tomaszewska
Director: Mads Matthiesen
Summary: A Danish fashion model struggles to adjust to her new life in Paris.
Strip away all the attempts to shock audiences and the weirded-out moments from Nicolas Winding Refn’s nightmarish The Neon Demon and you end up with something like The Model. The basic premises are similar: Inexperienced small town girl travels alone to work in an unfamiliar city and gets swallowed up by a seductive and morally empty world. One big difference, however, is that Emma (real-life model Palm) comes out of her shell, whereas Elle Fanning’s Jesse is, more or less, just a prop.
Emma, at first, seems disconnected from everybody else, understandably so. She’s living her one-in-a-million dream, and you can sense how surreal things must feel for her. She’s also immature, still hindered by her lack of self-esteem. She’s no match for the wolves lurking in this selfish universe.
Emma, however, is not just a victim. She perpetrates some of the negative outcomes in the relationship with her arrogant photographer boyfriend (Deadpool’s Skrein). Her impulsive decisions make her less of the little-girl-lost archetype often found in these types of stories.
The Model doesn’t say anything about the industry that outsiders probably haven’t already guessed for themselves. A business based on looks is, naturally, going to be superficial and unforgiving. But, even if the story is familiar, the film is well made, and it’s a cold reminder of the irresistible power that beauty has over most of us.
Starring: Deepak Sampat, Ronjini Chakraborty, Rohit Mittal
Director: Rohit Mittal
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Summary: A deeply troubled rickshaw driver in India is the subject of a documentary.
Those who have seen the disturbing faux documentary Man Bites Dog (1992) might consider Autohead to be a distant cousin of that controversial Belgian film. While nowhere near as sick (and, unfortunately, not as good) as its predecessor, Autohead merits watching on the strength of Sampat’s arresting performance as Narayan, a talkative, somewhat pushy rickshaw driver living in Mumbai, who loves movies and makes so many crude sexual remarks, he obviously longs for female companionship, a connection that’s just out of his reach. (Narayan’s professed love for a prostitute [Chakraborty] is clearly a nod to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, another one of the movie’s influences.)
Despite its shortcomings on a technical and story level (certain scenes don’t benefit from shaky, too-far-away shots and having the documentarians struggle more deeply with the moral dilemma of ignoring crimes they capture on video would have helped), the film does make us believe Narayan’s loneliness and his frustrations of earning a meager salary. Actually, it’s seeing his life as a working man in bustling Mumbai that proves to be the most engaging quality of the film. He has to be ready for anything when he hits the streets.
Watching Narayan maneuver through the busy city we get the importance he’s put on standing out. Being a nobody hurts. Being a nobody in a massively populous city hurts even more. Being followed around by documentary filmmakers soothes his ego, but Narayan’s path is heading toward destruction.
Mystery Team (2009)
Starring: Donald Glover, D.C. Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, Aubrey Plaza
Director: Dan Eckman
Summary: Eighteen-year-old friends continue to run a “detective agency” that they started when they were 7-year-olds.
This relatively obscure feature from Derrick Comedy, a sketch group that gained fame on the Internet about 10 years ago and whose most high-profile member is Donald Glover (a.k.a. musical artist Childish Gambino), is, admittedly, a bit of an acquired taste.
Too-cool-for-school types may not appreciate the ultra nerdy trio (which also includes Pierson and Dierkes) who form the Mystery Team. These lifelong buddies who’ve refused to grow up are at a stage when they’ve finally got to quit playing junior detectives and leave the past behind. But, when they get asked to solve a murder their opportunity to become local heroes—and to stop being the town’s laughingstock, it keeps them going.
Mystery Team is a heady blend of the absurd, the geeky, and sometimes obscene. The movie dips back and forth between purposefully corny humor (i.e., jokes involving fake mustaches) and harder edged scenes like when a white kid says the “N” word.
That last gag might bring to mind Glover’s hit FX show, Atlanta, which has touched on similar racial themes. But these two comedies are on different frequencies. Atlanta is socially aware. Mystery Team is a goofy (in a good way) effort with a healthy amount of cameos by various recognizable faces from TV. (Look for Veep’s Matt Walsh, who delivers the movie’s best line.) What they do have in common, though, is both feature a steady flow of humor, packed in with care, that’s never forced or rushed.
Cheap Thrills (2013)
Starring: Pat Healy, David Koechner, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton
Director: E.L. Katz
Summary: A down-on-his-luck man meets a stranger in a bar who proposes a series of outrageous bets for instant cash.
Here’s the type of story some of us pretend to be too good for: seeing man reduced to his most base instincts. In this case, it’s two long-lost friends who spend an alcohol- and drug-infused night taking on insane wagers. Some say softcore torture porn movies like these only bring society down to the gutter.
Yet how many people out there have thought at least once about whether or not they would eat bugs on a reality TV show for quick loot? Or do things more hardcore than that, like the stuff Colin (Koechner) challenges financially-strapped Craig (Healy) and pal Vince (Embry) to pull off, while Colin’s social media-obsessed wife (Paxton) watches from the sidelines.
Rather than promote greed, Cheap Thrills takes a darkly comical and gruesome stance on a scenario made possible by capitalism. Under this system, the poor get their sense of self worth through money. To not have money is to not even be a man. For the rich, money’s a perverse plaything used for sadistic acts, like watching people suffer for entertainment’s sake. It’s also used to control people.
But there’s more at work here, namely our innate need to compete. There seems to be something built inside of us that makes us want to one-up each other, to establish superiority. As Craig and Vince face off, one thing is certain: The more money each makes, the cheaper life becomes.
Gimme the Loot (2012)
Starring: Ty Hickson, Tashiana Washington, Zoë Lescaze, Meeko
Director: Adam Leon
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Summary: Two graffiti writers dream of “bombing” the New York Mets Home Run Apple.
Although this low-budget labor of love is centered around graf artists, it’s really about the strength and support that friendships give you when you need them most.
Sophia (Washington) and Malcolm (Hickson) run together, bonded by their devotion to graffiti. They have the rapport of a brother and sister, which means even the most simplest of conversations have the tendency to sound like arguments. But they have each other’s backs. And in New York City that means a lot.
Much of the film is spent following the duo as they try to raise $500 in order to bribe a Citi Field worker to give them access to the stadium after hours so they can vandalize the Mets Home Run Apple. As they scramble for money, viewers get quite the tour of the real New York. The real New York isn’t tourist destinations. It’s hangin’ on rooftops; it’s watching late-night public-access TV; racking paint; eating slices; hopping turnstiles; watching folks play dominoes on the street; real-ass bodegas; getting caught up in scams; the protocol of weed deliveries; kids banging beats on tables for cyphers; pickup b-ball games; graffiti crew beefs; enduring walkup apartments; breaking night then falling asleep on the train on the way home at the dawn of a new day.
For anybody who’s ever spent a grand summer in NYC that’s forever etched in their brain, Gimme the Loot will speak directly to you. The film vividly captures that special vibe that you have to experience firsthand to fully grasp and appreciate.