Happy End (2017)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke
Teenager Eve Laurent is suddenly thrust into the home of her estranged father and his family after her mother overdoses on antidepressants and ends up comatose. Thomas Laurent, her father, is married to his second wife who has just had their first child together. He’s also involved in an obscene affair with another woman. Anne, Eve’s aunt, owns a construction firm that has come under litigation after an onsite accident has left one of the workers on the verge of death. Anne’s son, Pierre works as the foreman on the site and appears to have emotional issues that might have led to the dangerous conditions on site. Finally, there is the patriarch Georges who is slipping into dementia and contemplating suicide to avoid what this condition will do to his mind, notably forgetting his late wife. Did I mention this is a dark comedy?
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The Bling Ring (2013)
Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola
For almost a full year between October 2008 and August 2009, homes of celebrities in Los Angeles were being robbed while their owners were absent. The culprits were a group of teenagers from Calabasas who used celebrity blogs, looking for notices that a celeb was going to be out of town for an event, to pick their marks. Led by Rachel Lee and Nick Prugo, they managed to steal $3 million in cash and belongings. Fifty homes in all were hit, with public figures like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Orlando Bloom among them. Their eventual arrests and trial made for a moderate media circus and led to one of the gang getting her own reality show on the American channel E! This is the absurd pseudo-celebrity of The Bling Ring.
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The Great McGinty (1940)
Written & Directed by Preston Sturges
We begin at a bar in a banana republic where a forlorn and suicidal American banker is stopped from ending things by the bartender. The bartender is also an American, Dan McGinty, who tells his patron that he was once governor of a state in the U.S. From there we flashback to the story of McGinty’s rise and fall to power. During the Great Depression, he’s another jobless schmoe who is coerced into a voting fraud scheme for two bucks. He ends up showing an impressive level of moxie, and a local mob boss decides to use McGinty in his plans. He starts out as an alderman before moving to mayor and eventually governor of an unnamed state. But, as the film’s opening prologue tells us, one moment of good will topple McGinty back to the bottom.
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Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Written by David Branson Smith & Matt Spicer
Directed by Matt Spicer
Ingrid Thorburn is a mentally unstable woman who seems to have little human contact outside of online social media, notably Instagram. She is released from a mental health facility and returns to her recently deceased mother’s home, still in grief about that loss and deep into her ongoing psychological issues. That is when she comes across an article on Taylor Sloane, a new social media tastemaker. Taylor fills her Instagram with accounts of the food she eats, the clothes she wears, and the activities she and her husband get up to living in Venice Beach. Ingrid decides that Venice Beach is where she needs to be and cashes out her inheritance to go there with the chance of running across Taylor. Eventually, this chance meeting occurs and Ingrid’s problems only compound from there.
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The book up for this month is one I started last month because I knew I would need extra time to finish it. The book is JR by William Gaddis, written in almost entirely dialogue with no scene breaks or chapters, and coming in at 726 pages. Published in 1975, JR tells the story of Edward Bast, a composer working as a school music teacher. He befriends 11-year-old JR Vansant. JR appears to be an economic savant, and without Bast realizing it he is pulled into the young man’s capitalist machinations. A novel that feels like the cacophonous and biting satirical work of filmmaker Robert Altman.
Lovecraft Country (2016, Harper)
By Matt Ruff
Black Army veteran Atticus Turner has come home to 1950s Chicago to find his father missing. Atticus suspects something sinister when he learns his volatile and proud father was seen leaving with a white man. With help from Uncle George and childhood friend Letitia, they travel to a remote village in New England. A conspiracy is uncovered and seemingly resolved in the first chapter. From there, the book is a series of interconnected short stories leading up to a finale where all the spotlighted characters converge for a resolution against the evil throughout the novel.
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Written by Jon Ronson & Bong Joon Ho
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho
In 2007, Lucy Mirando, heir to the problematic Mirando Corporation announced the discovery of a new animal, superpigs. These miracle animals appear to be the world’s answer to the problem of hunger, and the 26 best are sent around the world to be raised by varying farming cultures in a bid to figure out how best to raise them. One of these superpigs, Okja ends up in South Korea raised by an old man and his granddaughter Mija. Jump to ten years later, and Mirando is calling in all the pigs for a contest that will kick off superpig meat coming to a store near you. These means Okja will be taken away, sent off to New York for “processing.” Mija is having none of this and sets off to reclaim Okja, unaware she is about to uncover the dark secret behind the Mirando corporation.
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