Archive for September, 2008

New & Used TV This Week, Sept. 29-Oct 5

September 29, 2008

Here’s what’s new or returning on Ye Olde Tube o’ Boob this week:

Monday, September 29

Chuck — 8pm, NBC, season 2 — I actually gave up on Chuck after about the first half of last season, and probably won’t bother with it this season either.  Just wasn’t doing it for me; not sure why.  I wanted to like it.  I love Adam Baldwin.  I just kind of. . . meh.  So, consider this a public service announcement for those of you who watch — it’s back tonight, if you care!

Life – 10pm, NBC, season 2 — This intriguing cop drama, starring ex-Boyfriend Damian Lewis,  returns for a second season tonight — count me in (but please, if you care about me, do stop talking about fruit every thirty seconds)!  You can already watch tonight’s episode online, if you are so inclined.

Note that a second episode of Life will air this Friday at 10pm, the show’s regular day/time this season.

Wednesday, October 1

Pushing Daisies — 8pm, ABC, season 2 — Am I the only one who gets that Ween song about pushing the little daisies in their head whenever they think about this series?  Probably.   But it hardly matters — I was REALLY enjoying this total freakfest last year and had my fingers crossed it would survive the strike.  Miracle of miracles — it did!  Now, it’s got to survive season two.  And you can help!  By watching it!

Yes, I know some of you hate the cheesy voice-overs.  But really?  You’d miss out on watching Chi McBride knit sweaters while solving crimes because of a little ham-handedness?  Dude, your loss, yo.  This show is WEIRD, and we really need more weird on TV these days.

(Also returning tonight is Private Practice on ABC, by the way, but I can’t watch this show because it makes me cry seeing Tim Daly stuck in something this crappy.  Thankfully, I can now watch episodes of Eyes whenever I want to on AOL Video.  Helps with the sting.  I love you, Interwebs!)

Thursday, October 2

Biden/Palin Thursday Night Smack-Down — One, one, ONE night only!  This will be a face-off not to be missed!  WATCH as Joe “No Filter” Biden tries to make his opponent cry!  SEE Sarah “No Brain” Palin string eight unrelated talking points together into a single, completely nonsensical answer about the economy (oh wait, that was the Katie Couric interview — who knows what will come out of this lady’s mouth this time around!).   Who will emerge the victor?

On the one hand, Biden is not really known for his tact and if he goes after Palin too aggressively, he’ll just look mean, which only ever works for the Republicans (hi, Dick Cheney!).  On the other hand, I think all Palin needs to do to score herself a victory at this point is NOT fall completely on her face.  With a little coaching (Ahmadinejad, Ahmadinejad, Ahmadinejad: say it with me, Sarah!), she might be able to pull that off.

More worrisome:  Can Biden spend 90 minutes in a room with her and avoid rolling his eyes and sighing dramatically EVEN ONCE?  If so, we’ll know for sure just how strong his character is — because I didn’t last thirty seconds before I called McCain a “stinkbutted poo-poo pants” last Friday.

Which is, in a nutshell, why I have never bothered trying to run for office.  (In case you were wondering.)

Friday, October 3

Sanctuary — 9-11pm, Sci-Fi Network, season 1– This new Sci-Fi series stars Amanda Tapping from Stargate SG-1 as Dr. Helen Magnu, a scientist who “holds the secrets of a clandestine population:” a group of strange and sometimes terrifying beings that hide among humans. Together with a couple of sidekicks, she tries to keep the freakazoids safe, all the while attempting to determine where they came from.  Dude, I don’t know: could rock, could suck. I’m game to find out which.

Supernanny – 9pm, ABC, season something-or-other — Oh my god, I love this show.  I have no children of my own, so it’s the one time in life I’m allowed to criticize bad parenting skills.  In real life, if you try to say something like, “Hey, have you ever considered giving your kid a time-out when he kicks you in the teeth like that?” to a parent, you immediately get a snarl and a, “How would YOU know what I should do, you barren, childless, non-woman!  Why don’t you take your lame fallopian tubes, shove them up your empty uterus, and go home to your stupid cat!”

But in the privacy of my own home?  Watching Supernanny?  I totally call you kid-whipped.  I mean, seriously, at least my cat doesn’t BITE me when she doesn’t get her way.

Oh, wait. . .

Plus, I love the way Jo says the word “unacceptable.”  Unassesseptible.  That’s just so cute!

Numb3rs – 10pm, CBS, season 5 — Yep, I’m still watching this one.  AND STILL LOVING IT.  I don’t really know why, but I blame a combination of Mr. Universe and The Biscuit.  Also, they talk about math!  EVERY WEEK!  On a popular television show!  That’s like Geek Heaven for those of us who know our sines from our cosines.  Not to mention our quarks from our leptons.  Our string theory from our string cheese.

Mmmm, string cheese. . .  Wait, what was I just talking about?

Sunday, October 5

The CW is starting up two new shows Sunday night, neither of which I’m planning on watching, but I figured I’d give you guys the heads-up in case your Sundays are in need of cheap thrills.

The first is Easy Money, a comedy about a family that owns one of those payday loan places.  It’ll mix stories of the family with funny stuff about firm’s hapless clients.  Because, as we all know, there ain’t nuthin’ funnier than people so broke they are willing to get payday loans with interest rates as high as 400%.  Ha ha ha!  Poor people are so adorable. . .

The second is Valentine, which is about a family of Greek gods living in Los Angeles whose mission it is to help the lovelorn stop being so lorn of love.  Meh, not for me.  If you watch and it’s good, let us know?

That’s it for this week!  Watch Pushing Daisies!  You don’t have to like it, you just have to keep it from being canceled!  FOR MY SAKE!

Paul Newman dead at 83.

September 27, 2008

I’ve got no words.

Well, except maybe these:  The future’s all yours, you lousy bicycles.

God, I loved this man.

http://megwood.com/archive/butchsundance.html (Boyfriend write-up number 12)

MOVIE: Choke (2008)

September 25, 2008

Hey, guess what!  I saw a movie!  IN A THEATER!

And not only that, it was a sneak preview (Choke opens nationally this Friday)!  If you prick me, do I not ooze cool?  I so do.

This strange and even more strangely-hilarious movie, based on a Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) novel by the same name,  is about a guy named Victor (played by the brilliant Sam Rockwell).  By day, Victor wears a fake ponytail and works as a tour guide of sorts at one of those historical reenactment villages they have all over the East Coast (anybody who went to grade/high school in New England is surely extremely familiar with that kind of place — remember those countless field trips to Plimoth Plantation, everyone?).  Nights, he visits his ailing mother (Anjelica Houston) at a local nursing home.  She has pretty bad Alzheimer’s and every time she sees Victor, she thinks he’s someone else from her past — her old lawyer, an old boyfriend, etc.

To help pay for her care, Victor dropped out of medical school and began running a unique scam to try to coerce rich people into giving him money.  He goes into upscale restaurants and intentionally chokes on a piece of food.  Staggering around unable to breathe, he tries to work himself over to where a wealthy-looking person is sitting so that they can rescue him.  In Victor’s experience, once you have saved someone’s life, you feel invested in them in the long-term. So, he endears himself to his rescuers and then later hits them up for money with invented tales of woe (medical bills, dental problems, etc.).

So far, it’s working pretty well.  Except for one thing:  Victor’s life has become completely stagnant.  He’s going nowhere, he’s got no plan, he’s got no aspirations.  His whole life is his mother.

Well, his mother and sex, that is.  You see, Victor is a sex addict.  A sex addict who spends all his Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings banging a fellow “recovering addict” in the back room.  A sex addict stuck on step four of the twelve-steps and going nowhere fast.

When Victor meets his mother’s new doctor (Kelly MacDonald, not disguising her natural Scottish accent very well, if you ask me), though, life begins to change for him.  She’s young, beautiful, smart, and funny, and he immediately finds himself unable to have sex with her — a sure sign he’s actually falling for her.  Things get even more complicated for Victor when his mother lets it slip that she knows a secret about his origin.   He goes digging and soon finds his mother’s old diary in a box of stuff in his closet, but he’s frustrated to find it’s all in Italian — until the new doctor says she can translate.  A few days later, she’s somewhat stunned to tell him that the secrets of his origin aren’t of the standard “I slept with the mailman” sort.  Nooooo.  According to the new doctor’s translation, the diary says Victor is the son of Jesus, born via an implant generated from a piece of the holy foreskin (or perhaps that’s THEE Holy Foreskin).

Wait, stop — I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking. . . “WHAT?!”  But though it sounds strange, this movie is actually both extremely hilarious and surprisingly moving as well — frequently being both at the same time, which produces a nice “I don’t know how to feel!” effect for the audience.  An effect that parallels, pretty much, exactly how Victor feels each and every day.

Choke is definitely a story worth checking out in either format — I really liked the book and I really liked the movie too.  Definitely one to put on your list, though don’t go into this thinking it’s going to be ANYTHING like Fight Club or you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Recommended!

[Pre-queue me at Netflix]

Genre:  Comedy, Drama
Cast:  Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Houston, Kelly MacDonald, Brad William Henke, Bijou Phillips, Clark Gregg

Save The Middleman!

September 24, 2008

Hey, guys, I have just been informed that there is a campaign on the web to save ABC Family’s terrific new series, The Middleman.  The network hasn’t yet decided to do a second season, so fans of the show should take a few minutes to encourage them to take the plunge!

Sensei Ping may love pain and suffering like tornadoes love trailer parks, but I DON’T.  So, don’t let them kill off my favorite new show, yo!

Find out what you can do to help here:  http://middlefan.com/

Let’s kick the tires and light the fires!

New Boyfriend is Up!

September 22, 2008

Flowers for Algernon, I finally got new Boyfriend write-up posted!

I’m as serious as a Hefty bag full of Rottweilers, people — you are going to love this guy.

And if after reading the last two sentences, you know who he is, you are totally my new best friend, as well as this week’s Champion of Awesomeness.  Sensei Ping would be proud.

http://megwood.com

Enjoy!

BOOK: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

September 22, 2008

This wonderful young adult novel is about a teenage boy named Arnold Spirit, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, Washington. Arnold was born with “water on the brain,” and is a bit on the underdeveloped side, so he’s been the target of bullies most of his life. His way of coping? Drawing comics (many of which are “taped” into this diary) and playing basketball. And so far, life on the reservation has been fairly tolerable. He loves his family, troubled though it may be, he has a best friend who sticks up for him (aptly named Rowdy), and he’s managing.

But then he starts high school, only to find that the rez school is giving him the same textbooks they gave HIS parents. Twenty year-old math textbooks? Suddenly, the unfairness of it all overwhelms him, and Arnold makes the decision to quit going to school on the “poor-ass” reservation and start traveling 20 miles away to a mostly-white public school instead.

By leaving the rez, Arnold becomes an outcast in his own community, as well as an outcast in the all-white school he has started to attend. But it’s not long before he makes a few friends, and when his classmates see what he can do on the basketball court — and get a taste of Arnold’s personality — it’s not long before he goes from outcast to hero. Eventually, Arnold comes to terms with the two sides of himself — his white side, and his Indian side — learning how to balance the two and thrive in both worlds.

This coming-of-age novel is hilarious, powerful, and packed with stories of typical teenage problems (falling in love, losing a friend) as well as intense tales of reservation life (poverty, alcoholism). Arnold is irresistible, and it’s pure pleasure to get to take this peek into his “absolutely true diary.” Highly, HIGHLY recommended for teenagers and adults alike!
[YOUNG ADULT]

[Buy this book | Browse more book reviews | Search the book reviews]

New & Used TV, Sept. 22 – 28

September 22, 2008

Here’s what’s new/back this week — good thing I finally cleared all the crap off my DVR this weekend (uh, by WATCHING it, of course!).  Let the Fall Season officially begin!

Monday, September 22

Heroes – 8-11pm, NBC, season 3 — The first hour of this three-hour block is a special clips/recaps/behind-the-scenes thing, with the premiere of season three running from 9-11.  I have only three requirements for this season (#1’s a two-parter, though):

1) No more amnesia plotlines (Really?  They had to resort to ye olde amnesia plotline (TM) in season TWO?  Usually shows make it to at least season four before they get that desperate for ideas. . .).

1b) No coma plotlines either, while I’m at it.

2) No more kissing scenes involving Sylar — for all we know, dude’s EATING those brains he takes, and that sounds like an extremely effective way to contract all KINDS of hellacious diseases.  Keep yer cooties to yerself, brain-muncher.

3) Adrian Pasdar should be shirtless in every scene.  HOWEVER, I’ll settle for every other scene.  IF I MUST.  I think he might be the last remaining American actor with chest hair, and I, for one, would like to see more of it.

Also, just FYI, Life doesn’t return until next week, but if you just can’t wait another seven days, you can watch the first episode of the season on Hulu.com starting today.

Tuesday, September 23

NCIS – 8pm, CBS, season 6 — At the end of last season, Lauren Holly was dead (huzzah!) and the team was being split up (crap!).  This year, things start off with a new team, but, according to Entertainment Weekly, “there will be a lot of relieved fans” after the opening episode.  Let’s hope that means Tony shows up halfway through, looks right at the camera, and says, “Really?  Getting rid of the team the fans already know and love?  Yeah, because that worked so well for House last season??  I’ll be in my trailer with Ziva and McGilligan — let me know when you’ve pulled your heads out of your behinds.”  You tell ‘em, DiNozzo.

The Mentalist — 9pm, CBS, season 1 — In a word: Simon Baker.  Oh wait, that’s two words.  Might as well go for more, then.  This series is sort of like USA’s Psych, except not funny, which doesn’t really sound all that great if you’re a Psych fan, but which might actually work pretty well if you’re a Simon Baker fan.  It’s about a bogus TV psychic (Baker) whose entire family was murdered by a serial killer.  He takes a job with the California Bureau of Investigation, where he uses his fake psychic skills (he just reads people very, very well, like Sean in Psych) to solve crimes, ultimately hoping he’ll eventually find the nutjob  who took out his peeps.  Entertainment Weekly said the pilot was a “fun, fast-paced treat.”  No word yet on whether or not Baker takes his shirt off, or if he has chest-hair.  I’ll keep you posted.

Law & Order: SVU — 10pm, NBC, season 10 — Yes, I’m still watching this.  I’m not sure why.  I think I just keep hoping that someday, Stabler will stop caricaturing himself and go back to being an interesting character.  Then again, I said that about the characters on ER ten years ago, and look what happened:  A HELICOPTER FELL ON ROMANO.

Without a Trace — 10pm, CBS, season 7 — I haven’t watched this series regularly in years because it’s usually on opposite 86-gazillion other things I’d rather see.  However, I think there might be room for it on Tuesdays at 10 for me.  At least this week.  It’s not my favorite, but it’s usually fairly entertaining.  And I still love that they have a character named “Sam Spade,” even though she has never, to my knowledge, done a Humphrey Bogart impression.  Maybe this year.

Wednesday, September 24

Criminal Minds — 9pm, CBS, season 4 — Oh look!  I’m still using a cover photo from back when Inigo Montoya was the head of the department (“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed a family of five — prepare to be psychoanalyzed.”).  I guess I’m having trouble letting go.  If they promise to make Nicholas Brendon a regular character (he played the tech geek who started dating Garcia last year), I might be able to move on, though.  I’m just sayin’.  (Garcia rulz!)

CSI: New York — 10pm, CBS, season 5 — I don’t typically watch this one regularly either, but still tune in when I can because I like being reminded of the “Victoria’s Secret” episode of Due South.  (Only a very small number of you will nod knowingly at that sentence.  Which is why I wrote it.)  That said, I do think this show has been getting better and better with each passing season, and, much to its credit, it was also the first mainstream thing I ever saw Second Life mentioned in, which is not worth nothing.  TV 2.0!  S’not bad.

Thursday, September 25

Grey’s Anatomy – 9-11pm, ABC, season 5 — Here are my three rules for season 5:

1)  George must remain celibate for the entire season, or else. . . well, let’s just leave it at: OR ELSE.

2)  Izzy must not whine all season, especially about, to, or near George.

3)  Meredith and Derek must either get back together or break up, BUT NOT BOTH.

The Office — 9-10pm, NBC, season 5 — I usually watch this one online (and read recently that, thankfully, it will be back on iTunes this year!), but will definitely be making room for the hour-long premiere this week.  I confess I was really excited about Jim and Pam finally gettin’ together, until, like, they finally got together.  And now, not so much.  Such is the way of TV, I guess.

ER – 10pm, NBC, season FIFTEEN — Really?  Fifteen seasons?  Was that absolutely necessary?  Also, did I mention that A HELICOPTER FELL ON ROMANO?  I believe I did.

Rumor has it, Anthony Edwards will be back this season — don’t ask me, I just work here.  Maybe they’re doing a zombie episode?

Also returning this season will be Carter (I still think he should show up and tell everybody he’s become a librarian, but nobody ever listens to me), Ray and what I assume will be two prosthetic limbs and a cellphone phobia, and Dr. Moretti (Stanley Tucci).  Not returning this season:  Romano.  Although, I guess if Dr. Greene is coming back, one can’t really rule anything out.  Even characters who were once FLATTENED by a HELICOPTER.

Friday, September 26

Obama/McCain Friday-Night SmackDown, (check local TV guide for times). The season’s newest reality show kicks off with its first of four installments (three Obama/McCain SmackDowns, one Biden/Palin).  In this corner:  Barack “I’ve Now Been in Fifty. . . Seven States” Obama!  And in this corner: John “Noun, Verb, I WAS A POW!” McCain!  Watch as Barack Obama tries to intimidate his opponent using big words and an eerie calm!  Watch as McCain stammers a bit, tries to change the subject, and then shoots fire out of his eyeballs!

Two will go in, but only one can be. . . America’s Next Top Politician.

Hey, you’ve registered to vote, right?  If not, you should get on that, yo.  Election’s right around the corner (thank god!).  Go Obama!

Sunday, September 28

Cold Case — 9pm, CBS, season 6 — I actually quit watching this last year.  Got too repetitive.  But I might give it a try this season since there isn’t much else playing on Sunday nights.

Desperate Housewives — 9pm, ABC, season 5 — I actually quit watching this last year.  Got too repetitive.  But I might give it a try this season since there isn’t much else playing on Sunday nights.

The Unit — 10pm, CBS, season 4 — I actually quit watching this one after season one.  It was on opposite too many other things I was watching.  I won’t be tuning in this season either because I want to catch up on DVD instead, but this is a pretty good show (developed by David Mamet, no less), and one worth mentioning.  Also worth mentioning:  Max Martini, hubba hubba.  I like boys with freckles.

Check back next Monday for the schizznizzle on next week’s new & used TV!

MOVIE: Spartan (2004)

September 18, 2008

It’s been years since I last saw a David Mamet film, and I have to say, I just love the way he puts movies together.  That signature dialogue — not just the words he has his characters say, but the cadence in which they say them — I think it’s absolutely brilliant.  Even if I don’t know I’m about to watch a Mamet film, I know it’s Mamet as soon as the first character opens his or her mouth.  I love that.  And now that I’ve gotten a taste of his work again, I’m eager to go back and rewatch all my old favorites, like The Spanish Prisoner, and House of Games.  Oy, Davey-boy, you are da bomb.

What’s remarkable about this movie is the way Mamet takes a storyline that starts out very Law & Order: SVU and then turns it into a completely different animal.  It opens with Secret Service agent Scott (Val Kilmer) helping with the selection of a few new agents (who knew that process was so cutthroat?).  He gets called away, though, when the President’s daughter disappears from her college campus.  The team has about 48 hours to find her before the media realizes she’s gone — once the story breaks, whoever took her is sure to kill her.  Scott begins to investigate, but just as he finally gets a tip on her location, her body is found floating off the shores of Martha’s Vineyard — killed in a boating accident.

Or so they say.

From there, the story takes a sharp turn, as Smith uncovers the truth about what really happened to the girl.  It involves a wide variety of elements — a prostitution ring in Dubai, an upcoming presidential election, an extremely bad haircut, the shooting of many an innocent, etc. etc. etc.  But while the story is complex, it never gets convoluted.  And even though it’s definitely not going down as my favorite Mamet movie of all time (I think that one’s probably House of Games — the first Mamet movie I ever saw and one that just blew my mind), I REALLY enjoyed this film.  Great action, great suspense, great dialogue, and no clutter whatsoever.  If I had to pick one negative thing to say about Spartan, I’d say it was just a little bit on the predictable side — but it’s so much fun watching Kilmer in this role that it just didn’t bother me at all.

Definitely recommend this one, especially if you like Val or William H. Macy (who at first I thought was just getting a cameo part — Mamet often casts him in his movies — but then, as usual, he practically ends up stealing the movie).  And, oh yeah, Kristen Bell — she plays the President’s daughter, and does so extremely well.  All in all, a very entertaining way to spend an evening.  Well worth a rental next time you’re in the mood for something energetic and fun.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Action, Drama
Cast:  Val Kilmer, William H. Macy, Kristen Bell, Tia Texada, Derek Luke

BOOK: The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind — And Almost Found Myself — On the Pacific Crest Trail by Dan White

September 18, 2008

I really enjoy “adventure memoirs” like this one — books like Tracy Johnston’s Shooting the Boh or Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. I like reading about people overcoming outdoorsy challenges and becoming better people from the experience, I guess. This is the first time I’ve read an adventure memoir, however, where the hiker actually became a WORSE person because of his time on the trail. But, hey, it’s good to have balance, right? And we can’t all be improved by our hardships, after all — some of us must turn into poopheads instead. Such is the way of humanity.

The Cactus Eaters is about author Dan White and his girlfriend Allison, and their attempt to hike the entire Pacific Coast Trail, which stretches over 2600 miles from Mexico to Canada along the West Coast. It starts with brutal deserts, moves into agonizingly high mountains and hills, and then ends in rainy, damp woodlands. Sounds like fun! Dan and Allison are rookies — I don’t know much about hiking, but even I could tell when they were making a biiiiig mistake (for example, the time they dumped half their food and water, despite the fact they knew getting MORE food and water was going to be extremely difficult to do. Such a bad plan, guys!). And throughout most of the book, it’s really fun hearing the stories about their trek, as they stumble their way up California and manage to keep going every day despite the incredible odds stacking up against them. I really enjoyed hearing about the places they walked through, the people they walked with, the people they desperately did NOT want to walk with, etc. Dan is an entertaining writer, and though I will say this isn’t a terribly well-written book, he’s funny and honest, and also good at describing settings and people, and that goes a long way towards keeping the whole thing readable.

The problem with Dan, though, is that he becomes so obsessed with finishing the trail that, when Allison has to abort before Oregon due to a sudden, life-changing medical diagnosis (I won’t say of what), his reaction is to say, “Whelp, good luck with that, Ally! I’m heading back to the PCT now! See ya later!” And then he’s astonished when Allison later dumps his lame ass. I started the book really liking Dan and ended it thinking he was a complete wanker. I’m glad Allison figured that out before it was too late herself — you go, girlfriend.

In any case, if you have any interest at all in adventure memoirs or the Pacific Coast Trail or the spectacular transformation of a good man into a total doofus in 2600 miles or less, this is definitely a book I think you’ll enjoy. Recommended!

[NON-FICTION]

[Buy this book | Browse more book reviews | Search the book reviews]

MOVIE: An American Crime (2007)

September 16, 2008

Man, I’m not even sure how to begin talking about this movie.

A friend emailed me a few weeks ago to recommend it to me, saying it starred Ellen Page and Catherine Keener, two actresses I really like, and that it was extremely well-made and very thought-provoking.  And after watching it a few days ago, I can at least say that much:  it IS extremely well-made and very thought-provoking.

It’s also disturbing as hell.

This movie is based on a true story (or, more technically, it’s “an interpretation” of court transcripts from an actual trial) that took place in a small town in the late 1960’s.   It’s about two teenage girls, Sylvia (Ellen Page) and Jennie (Hayley McFarland) whose parents work for the circus.  The parents are about to go on tour for the summer again, and don’t want to drag the girls along with them for the umpteenth time, so when a neighbor of theirs, Gertrude Baniszewski, offers to take them in for $20 a week, they happily agree.  Gertrude is the single mother of six kids but, as she says, “What’s two more?”  She seems nice.  She goes to church.  It all seems perfect.

And, at first, it is.  Sylvia and Jennie quickly become fast friends with Gertie’s daughters, and it looks like their summer is going to be like a super-long p.j. party o’ fun.  But then things get complicated — Gertie’s eldest daughter, Paula, gets pregnant and swears Sylvia to secrecy, but the secret gets out anyway.  Only, Paula (Ari Graynor) denies it to her mother and instead tells Gertie that Sylvia’s been making up vicious lies about her.  Gertie, self-medicating for “asthma” by sucking down bottles of narcotic cough syrup, chain-smoking, and drinking lots of scotch, starts to buckle under the stress of dealing with eight kids and no money, and it becomes increasingly easy for her to believe that Sylvia is the source of all her problems.

At first, she tries to rectify the issue by punishing Sylvia in a sort-of normal-ish 50’s kind of way — whacking her with a belt, for example.  But even though Sylvia is on her best behavior, Gertie’s psychological state eventually completely crashes, and ultimately, Sylvia ends up imprisoned in the basement for weeks.

What happens next is one of the most truly disturbing examples of mob violence I have ever heard tell of.  Because it’s not just Gertie who beats on Sylvia — next it’s Gertie’s kids, and after that, it’s the neighbor kids too.  Pretty soon, kids of all ages are coming over to Gertie’s house after school for the sole purpose of getting to burn someone with cigarettes and punch her in the face, kick her in the thighs, carve things on her belly with a hot needle, etc.  That these kids — some of whom were actually Sylvia’s FRIENDS — were so ready and willing to commit such awful, awful acts of violence just absolutely stunned me.  One of them would say, “No, I don’t think I want to,” and the rest of the group would say, “But we’re ALLOWED to.  My mom SAID we could!  Come on!”  And that would be all it took.  What the. . .?!

The movie itself is organized quite well, with courtroom scenes from Gertie’s trial (using the actual transcripts for dialogue) intercut with reenactments of Sylvia’s story.   We get to see each one of the kids testify, for example, and when asked WHY they went along with the torture, every single one answers, “I don’t know.”  Catherine Keener is absolutely brilliant in this — though I’m a bit biased because I worship her.  And Ellen Page is extremely effective as well, though her role as victim doesn’t really have much depth to it.

But my god, this movie is almost impossible to watch after a certain point.  And that this is true — that this really happened —  I just. . . Ugh.

Anyway, is this a good film?  I think I would say it is.  It’s well-acted, well-paced, and very nicely structured.  But would I recommend this film?  No way.  I wish I could unwatch it myself, quite frankly.  I know kids have the capacity for incredible cruelty — but this?  I just. . . Ugh.

Ugh.

Ugh, I tell you, ugh.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Drama
Cast:  Ellen Page, Catherine Keener, Hayley McFarland, Ari Graynor, Nick Searcy, Romy Rosemont, Bradley Whitford


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