Movie Review – Honey Boy

Honey Boy (2019)
Written by Shia LaBeouf
Directed by Alma Har’el

Filmmaking as therapy is a common theme in autobiographical movies. Just recently, I reviewed Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory, which served as an outlet for the director to talk about aging and his physical ailments. Actor Shia LaBeouf similarly uses film as confession & therapy, though more intimate and raw than Almodovar. LaBeouf, if you don’t know, was a child actor on the Disney Channel before he reached higher levels of fame in Michael Bay’s Transformers films. The film jumps between these two periods, fictionalizing or obscuring the details, so it’s not about LaBeouf specifically.

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Movie Review – Pain and Glory

Pain and Glory (2019)
Written & Directed by Pedro Almodovar

Pedro Almodovar is no strange to autofiction in his cinema, that doesn’t mean he’s always factually honest with us. Almodovar is very much an impressionist, more interested in the emotions and underlying psychology of events in our lives. Pain and Glory is the most obviously autobiographical, Antonio Banderas playing a version of the aging director. This is a meditation on the physical changes that come with time, how our bodies are both vessels of pleasure and suffering during our lives. The structure is that of interconnected short stories, vignettes centered around the protagonist that allow him to reflect and reconnect with people from his past.

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Movie Review – Coming Home

Coming Home (1978)
Written by Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones
Directed by Hal Ashby

Ron Kovic has proved to be an inspirational figure since the 1970s. His memoir, Born on the Fourth of July, was turned into a film by Oliver Stone in the 1980s. But before that, he served as the basis of this movie by Hal Ashby. Kovic was serving in Vietnam when he was caught by the Viet Cong while helping a South Vietnamese unit. The soldier was shot through his foot, then shoulder, ending up with a collapsed lung and a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Kovic’s passionate anti-war activism inspired Jane Fonda to want to make a film about injured veterans and their families to share the story of what happens after the parades and medals are handed out.

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Movie Review – Bound for Glory

Bound for Glory (1976)
Written by Robert Getchell
Directed by Hal Ashby

The details are all a lie, but the experience is authentic. The time and place look just like it would have during the Great Depression. The trials and travails of the Okies are just as it would have been. The film is engaging in myth-making, building episodes, and lore to capture the essence of someone who exists as an icon. There’s nothing wrong with myths, they served a fundamental purpose in the ancient times, informing humans about their world and how to be in it. I would think most music biopics weave stories about their protagonists to get across some sense of the themes in their music. To do that some times you have to make those stories up.

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Movie Review – The Children's Hour

The Children’s Hour (1961)
Written by Lillian Hellman and John Michael Hayes
Directed by William Wyler

The Bad Seed is an iconic film that established the trope of the evil child with actress Patty McCormack delivering a stunning performance. I have to believe this movie was the inspiration to bring The Children’s Hour to the big screen. Originally a stage play first performed in the late 1930s, The Children’s Hour is a melodrama with witch-hunt elements. But the catalyst for all the conflict is an evil little girl, a truly despicable young lady who I’m sure you will grow to hate as much as I did.

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Movie Review – Shampoo

Shampoo (1975)
Written by Robert Towne & Warren Beatty
Directed by Hal Ashby

By the time February 1975 rolled around, Nixon had been a former president for six months. The aftermath of the Watergate scandal was the death of much of the optimism of the 1960s, a nation splintered and mistrustful of people in power. The United States was driven to a Constitutional crisis with the Supreme Court being defied by then-President Nixon. Some people wanted to move on, get to the next thing, and forget about the wounds. Others wanted to perform an autopsy of the past decade, trying to figure out how we went from the hippie movement of the late 1960s to a ravaged industrial hellscape of the mid-1970s.

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Movie Review – The Last Detail

The Last Detail (1973)
Written by Robert E. Towne
Directed by Hal Ashby

The Last Detail chronicles the birth of a friendship that has to die. It’s a portrait of masculine camaraderie wounded by the artificial structures of authoritarianism. This is a tragedy where everyone physically lives, but spiritual dies because they are asked to do what is unnatural. It’s a quiet and profane road trip buddy film that meanders and wanders on its way to the final destination.

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