Movie Review – Peggy Sue Got Married

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Written by Jerry Leichtling & Arlene Sarner
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

To paraphrase Rick James, nostalgia is a hell of a drug. The fawning over past decades has reached a high-pitched furor in American culture at the moment. The 1980s seem to be evergreen. The fashions of the 1990s are rearing their heads again. Sadly, the austerity of the 1970s appears to be coming back too. Political movements like the crypto-fascist MAGA ideologies are rooted in delusions of the past. Look at how QAnoners are convinced that their favorite celebrities of their youth aren’t really dead and will come back. Boomer MAGA, like my mother, are lost in the insanity that believes JFK is still alive. Gen Xers and Millennials in the movement talk about Michael Jackson still living out there somewhere. It’s a rather widespread hysterical version of the Elvis sightings I remember hearing about as a kid. 

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Movie Review – Downsizing

Downsizing (2017)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

In 2017, Alexander Payne had his first official box office bomb. Four years prior, he’d received fairly rave reviews from critics for Nebraska, and before that, The Descendants had also been similarly received. In a decision that can be read as an attempt to expand his creative sphere by making a satirical science fiction film. Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor hammered out the details during the director’s hiatus from filmmaking between 2004 and 2011. The film was released on December 22 and proceeded to gross $55 million against a $76 million budget. I only bring up those numbers as that’s mostly how you see Downsizing spoken about. It did not make money therefore it is a failure. Because the film was so poorly thought out, it was a failure. It was the third of Paramount’s bombs that year alongside Mother! and Suburbicon, all high-concept films that feature lousy writing.

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Movie Review – Nebraska

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Nebraska (2013)
Written by Bob Nelson
Directed by Alexander Payne

For the first time in his filmmaking career, Alexander Payne directed a script he did not write. The result was a film that got a lot of praise from critics. It wasn’t a box office smash, but it did better than expected due to awards season word of mouth. After the diversions of Sideways and The Descendants, Payne had returned to his Midwestern roots, exploring the humor and daily dramas of life in Nebraska. A pair of producers contacted Payne while working on About Schmidt with the Nebraska script. Payne already knew Sideways was in the pipeline and wisely realized he would be seen as “the guy who makes road trip movies” but thought the Nebraska script was great. It got put on the back-burner, and after The Descendants, Payne saw this as the time to make Nebraska.

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Movie Review – The Descendants

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The Descendants (2011)
Written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash
Directed by Alexander Payne

It would take six years after Sideways before Alexander Payne released another film. His longest gap to date between movies. During that time, Payne would get divorced from his wife Sandra Oh; they were together for around six years, married for three. I am no psychoanalyst, and everything I say is complete speculation, but…it sure does seem like the divorce did not sit well with Payne. I say that because from this point on, women, who appeared to have a special place in his previous work, suddenly take on a much darker tone. This film and the next two all feature female characters that are “nags” and absurdly vulgar for no apparent reason other than to add levity to the movie?

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Patron Pick – Funny Pages

Make sure to reply to our poll for the podcast: Which is the best Alexander Payne movie?

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Funny Pages (2022)
Written & Directed by Owen Kline

The United States is a grimy, skeevy place. It’s often easy for people who live in dense urban environs to mock those in “red states” when climate collapse strikes and causes devastation. They dunk on people who are ruled over by neo-fascist political figures yet fail to realize the whole damn thing is coming down on top of everybody. You wouldn’t think such an insight would be found in a New York/Hollywood nepotism baby but America is full of surprises. Owen Kline, the son of actors Kevin Kline & Phoebe Cates, makes his feature film debut as writer-director of this picture. Much like the dirtbag Left (see Chapo Trap House, Cumtown, etc.) I feel conflicted as to how much I trust these privileged motherfuckers but for now we’ll give them a pass, just keep your eyes on them. Kline appears to be forging the love child of Terry Zwigoff & The Safdie Brothers and it sort of works.

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Movie Review – Sideways

Make sure to reply to our poll for the podcast: Which is the best Alexander Payne movie?

Sideways (2004)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

With Sideways, Alexander Payne caused a 16% increase in sales of pinot noir in the Western United States. How many movies can say they did that? It also increased tourism to the Santa Ynez Valley in Central California and decreased merlot sales by 2%. I remember seeing this movie while I was in college with my friend Sam. In the following months, he became more interested in wine, and I benefitted by getting to try a lot of it. I can’t say I like wine all that much. I always seem to get a headache the morning after. I think the magic of this film is that even if you don’t care about it, the writing makes you interested. This is the effect of having a genuine passion; the rest of the world becomes invisible when you are lost in it, yet often you become someone people flock to because of that passion. We all want to feel that way about something.

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Movie Review – Election

Election (1999)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

There’s something deeply wrong in America. It’s a rotten core deeply embedded in the manufactured two-party political culture wars that go on endlessly. We Americans are petty, spiteful, hateful people. It’s simply the truth. Our elite spin fancy myths that seek to bolster our perceptions, but all you need to do is step back a bit, and you begin to see the fetid sludge come boiling to the surface. We crave the boot of brutal authority just as long as we can glance over and see our neighbor getting worse than us. When I first watched Election as an 18-year-old college freshman, I didn’t really get it. I don’t think the culture as a whole did, as I would hear things about Tracy Flick being such a bitch. She’s the villain of the movie, right? Not at all. She’s the victim. But we so quickly decided she was the bad guy.

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Movie Review – Citizen Ruth

Citizen Ruth (1996)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne has been a presence in American film since the late 1990s, starting with this debut feature. Filmmaking has been a passion in Payne’s life since he was a teenager and got his first Super 8mm camera. Payne would eventually attend Stanford but not study film. Instead, he majored in Spanish and History. Then, in the late 1980s, he attended UCLA film school, where his thesis film, The Passion of Martin, started the ball rolling for future projects. 

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Movie Review – The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)
Written by Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten
Directed by Tom Gormican

At this point, we must acknowledge that Nicolas Cage is a movie institution. He makes movies he is passionate about or jobs that help pay for something new in his life. His motivations are the same as any working person; he just sometimes gets paid an obscenely large amount for what he does. For example, Pig (2021) was made on a budget of around $3 million and earned back just a little more than that at the box office. This tells us that Cage didn’t agree to star in that film for the payday but because he genuinely believed in the project. As much as a cartoon as he’s become in the zeitgeist, I still see him as a genuine artist who doesn’t care what you or I think at the end of the day. He’s in the movies that he wants to be in. With this picture, he allows the filmmakers to deconstruct his film persona for some laughs and genuine human insight.

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Movie Review – Dora and The City of Lost Gold

Dora and The Lost City of Gold (2019)
Written by Nicholas Stoller, Matthew Robinson, and Tom Wheeler
Directed by James Bobin

Of all the shows I have reviewed in this series on cinematic television adaptations, this is the only one created during my adulthood. Not having children or having spent a lot of time around Zoomers as babies, I don’t really have any emotional attachments to the source material. I’ve seen the numerous parodies of Dora that show up in pop culture, and I understand the show’s concept, though. So I was a bit surprised but intrigued when it was announced that a live-action Dora movie was in the works. I always prefer an unexpected and weird take on a well-known property rather than regurgitating something we all know. This is why I am very interested in the Greta Gerwig Barbie film. It sounds like something that isn’t just a straightforward adaptation. And that’s what we get with Dora and The Lost City of Gold, a movie that balances a genuine love of the show with the ability to poke fun at it.

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