This is US

[ABSOLUTELY NO SPOILERS AHEAD… PROMISE]

The best part of Jordan Peele’s Us is how the filmmaker continues to subvert audience expectations by simply being himself and showing the world as he sees it.

In this case it is watching a family of color as our principal protagonists, nee heroes, as they fight the inevitable monster and carnage that threatens to engulf them.

Not creepy or anything #runsaway

More importantly, it is the relegation of the white couple to the traditional role of the best friends who you know will appear and reappear at will when some comic relief or convenient plot device is needed.

In this way Us is a totally original mainstream reinvention of the horror genre that is very much in the tradition of Peele’s groundbreaking Get Out.  Our view of the upscale suburban nuclear family to which very bad things will happen is no longer beige but color-corrected.

Yes, Ru!

The fact that this is about all that has changed from the usual is both the film’s strong point and its weakness.  Many contemporary horror films already have a patina of social commentary and Us is no different.

It spoils nothing about Us to say that in initially taking us back to 1986’s Hands Across America campaign, where a multicultural human chain was created in cities across the United States to raise money for charities that helped people in poverty, we are being set up for the inevitable “but has the world really changed” question by the end of the film.

The attempt to make this well-to-do Black family just as human as any white family in any horror film – that is to say a bit too two-dimensional and self-satisfied – succeeds as well as it ever has.  The characters are just as clueless, oblivious and bereft of individuality as any white family in a similar social class or big screen genre entertainment.

but still not as horrifying as this #isit2020yet

It’s sort of the way I initially felt watching gay culture become mainstreamed in the eighties and nineties and beyond with the advent of Will & Grace, Ellen, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Marriage Equality.

Well, I guess we really have arrived, I recalled thinking.  Now we can be just as average as everyone else.  Hallelujah!

Never mind I was also simultaneously seeing myself like Dustin Hoffman/Katharine Ross at the end of 1967’s The Graduate – two people who get EXACTLY what they wish only to be left wondering, Well, uh, okay.  You mean now this is my…reality?  

Uh oh

Of course there ARE many more benefits to being able to finally get married or serve openly in the military than there are to being front and center in a horror film (Note:  And as soon as I can think of one I’ll let you know….Oh, KIDDING!!!).  But if movies are indeed one of the most enduring and mainstream social chronicles of who we really are, it’s hard not to hope for just a little bit more.

After all, George Romero’s seminal Night of Living Dead gave us a Black hero as far back as 1968 and became the social commentary scale against which all horror films got measured.  I can recall finally seeing it as a teen some years later on television and being blown away at its message (Note: Don’t hate me, it was the seventies) and audacity.  So is it too much to ask for a little more than that of the genre some fifty plus years later?

Enough with the scary Nuns.. really #dobetter2019

In fairness, Romero has stated publicly that the reason that his lead actor in Night was Black mostly had to do with the fact that the actor, Duane Jones, was simply the person who gave the best audition.  Nevertheless, with a budget of $114,000 and an international gross upwards of $30 million it’s hard to imagine the director-writer didn’t know he was on to something.

This is what happens sometimes in moviemaking, happy accidents of instinct where the choices one makes pay off creatively and financially far better than anyone could imagine.  One could argue the same is possible and true today, but not as likely as when your budget is $20 million plus a helluva lot more than that in marketing.  Not to mention all of the release dates you have to meet (which includes both film festival and distributor/exhibitor bookings) AND the sophomore jinx trifecta of a best screenplay Oscar win, critical plaudits and box-office breaking success in an auteur driven film, your first, in the horror genre.

No Pressure for Mr. Peele

Sure there are countless worse problems in the real world than the success of Get Out but few if any of them are effectively addressed in the onscreen story of Us.  Instead what we get is a lot of talk about the Freudian concept of our shadow selves and the consequences of such when these darkest impulses are either indulged or ignored.

It’s an interesting discussion for an abnormal psychology class but not quite the stuff that drives a good or even great horror flick.

What does give Us its engine is a bravura performance by Lupita Nyong’o, one part troubled but relentless Mother Hen and the other part vacuum cleaner-voiced scissor sister with an internal moral compass known only to herself.

We don’t deserve you, Lupita

It kind of reminds you of a 2019 version of Rosemary’s Baby where Mia Farrow is given the chance to portray both herself AND the Devil.  (Note: And, um, NO, Lupita does NOT play the Devil in Us.  There are NO SPOILERS HERE for the umpteenth time!).

Much as I adored Rosemary’s Baby I was sort of hoping for more in Mr. Peele’s second time out.  But perhaps this is being unfair to him.  After all, Rosemary’s Baby was based on a best-selling book of cutting social satire by novelist Ira Levin that was expertly plotted and insanely insightful.  A story that dealt with another upwardly mobile couple/mother Hen in a foreboding time period in America that similarly used the horror genre to address dark privilege, the righteous anger of those who have been discounted by it and the chains that will forever tether the two together.

Hmmm, sounds awfully timely to me.  And perhaps this time the film and novel from which it springs could literally be political?  Though maybe that’s way too obvious.

Luniz – “I Got 5 On It” (from the soundtrack of Us)

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THE RISE OF THE ___________

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I want to do anything but write about ________ today.

Literally anything. Except jump out of an airplane or die. Which in my mind is the same thing.

And, he referred to my hands –‘ if they’re small, something else must be small.‘ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.’

I'm just gonna leave this here...

I’m just gonna leave this here…

Here’s what Modern Family writer @DannyZuker recently tweeted on the subject.

In the spirit of that, here’s a line from one of my favorite films, Rosemary’s Baby (1968) –

He has his father’s eyes…Satan is his father… 

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Drumpf.

Get ‘em out, get’ em out, get ‘em outa here!

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And suddenly all the Black people were gone – pushed and dragged away by large burly men when they dared to speak out in a public place. Or dared to just be standing around doing nothing but listening.

Bill Maher played the Hitler card in a short, hilarious reference on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher on Friday.

I suggest watching for its mere 2 minutes. But if you don’t want to it involves a visual of the Fuhrer shouting loudly and hysterically to thousands of rabid, cheering supporters in the 1940s. Yet instead of listening to words from the leader of The Third Reich we’re hearing recent 2015/16 sound bites from ________  as if they were utterances from Heil You Know Who.

The transitions are seamless. I mean, you’d never ever know. Even the occasional joke feels real. It all works.

Here’s part of the climactic monologue/speech from another movie I love, Tootsie (1982), when the hero-in-female drag explains why in the end female leaders are in much more preferable to their male counterparts.

…Now you all know that my father was a brilliant man; he built this hospital. What you don’t know is that to his family, he was an unmerciful tyrant – a absolute dodo bird. He drove my mother, his wife, to – to drink…

Dorothy tells it how it is

Dorothy tells it how it is

I don’t drink much myself but I can’t say a nice stiff Scotch wouldn’t hit the spot just about now. Perhaps even a sip would do it for me. Yes, I’m a lightweight. But at least I know it. Unlike some people.

trump-says-the-truth-and-the-jew-cringes

The grammar mistakes are________ ‘s, not mine. Just in case it was confirming his thoughts about how inaccurate journalists are. Well, I used to be a journalist. Now I’m just a blogger. Or, to use ________ ’s language, a loser. Of course, so is the New York Times, according to ________ . So, journalistically speaking, I’m in good company.

Louis C.K. wrote an open letter to his fans this week about the Person of Color (Note: Orange) whose name we dare not speak. It was funny, honest and intelligent. Creative reportage is perhaps the best description. Much like the new journalism writings of people like Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion and Hunter Thompson in the 1970s. But given the informality of Twitterverse and emailspeak of the new millennium, a quote like this speaks volumes:

louiscktrump2

Of course, there was a lot more to what he said than that – a whole letter to the public, actually. You can read it here.

If you don’t, just know that preceding the above quote was this thought from Mr. C.K. (Note: Calling him that seems so weird, doesn’t it? #Louie) – he’s okay with the next president being from the other side of the aisle.

We are about 40 percent conservative and 40 percent liberal…And it always made sense that everyone gets a president they like for a while and then hates the president for a while. But it only works if the conservatives put up a good candidate. A good smart conservative to face the liberal candidate so they can have a good argument and the country can decide which way to go this time.

Though this is what Robert Redford had to say in one of the most romantic movies ever made – The Way We Were (1973). He plays a pretty boy aspiring novelist and eventual screenwriter who is speaking to mousy, brainy political activist/Jewish girl Barbra Streisand, a college classmate who he will marry, cheat on and years later divorce right after she gives birth to his only daughter.

Well, you make fun of politicians. What else can you do with them?

BRB watching this for the 1,000th time

BRB watching this for the 1,000th time

You can call them out – or not vote for them.

Actually, ________ ’s competitors are doing the former in great big shouts all over the country and every time you tune into our many airwaves. But none are willing to say they’ll do the latter. In fact, at their most recent debate this week, they all vowed to vote for him if he is their nominee. That’s exactly the opposite.

It sort of reminds me of a line from one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures – Postcards From The Edge (1990).

…I’m not a box, I don’t have sides. This is it, one side fits all!

It is interesting to note the character saying that is a reformed drug addict.

... or in the same condition I am when I watch any GOP debate

… or in the same condition I am when I watch any GOP debate

Movies, like history, repeat themselves and their messages. And often in the form of history – both past and present.   Much as I love film, there are times when I so wish this weren’t true.

20 Reasons to Floss

* Part of our mission statement here at Notes from a Chair is to give readers a heads up on potential good and bad things to look forward to in contemporary life.  On the list of the bad is dental work.  Of any kind.

The Chair endured some dreaded gum surgery on Friday and was forced to spend the weekend recuperating and reflecting.   The following is a cautionary list that might help avoid doing (too much of) either in the future.

20 REASONS TO FLOSS:

Floss (verb): to clean (the teeth) with dental floss.

Dental floss:

  1. a soft, strong, waxed or unwaxed thread, usually made of nylon, for drawing between the teeth to remove food particles and prevent the buildup of plaque.
  2. the answer to many of life’s problems.

1. You love disposable income.  When you get to middle age you do not want to give your tooth doctor the cash equivalent of what could be the cost of your beloved new Kia.  And even though we wouldn’t recommend a Kia (a car mechanic told us some years ago it was the one car never to buy – new or used), the same amount could be used to purchase a glamorous Italian vacation; several Tom Ford or Stella McCartney designer somethings (depending on your gender and/or gender choice); or a lifetime worth of movies tickets several times over till the end of time anywhere in the world.

2. Dental surgery does not make you “hip.”  We went to one of the finest and most expensive periodontal specialists health insurance could buy.  Still, we were treated to a Beverly Hills waiting area that featured:

  1. Large purple and lilac tubular cylinders on a dark gray wall that were masquerading as either objects de’op art or potential surgical instruments.
  2. A middle aged woman incessantly muttering and humming to herself in an indecipherable native tongue.
  3. A Beverly Hills matron either giving us the evil eye or flirting to the tune of said native music.
  4. The Entertainment Weekly cover image of Jessica Lange as an ax-wielding nun presiding over her own medical establishment in the new season of “American Horror Story.”

3. “White privilege” is alive and well . Although we live (allegedly) in a post-racial society, whiteness is still given the upper hand in all things dentistry. This was confirmed all the more in a post operative weekend of trash TV that included a human something called Carter Oosterhouse hosting a 1:00 ayem HGTV program called “Million Dollar Rooms.” (yes, that’s a single room, meaning one).  Hell, it was either that or watching the “Insanity” workout infomercial.  Which one would YOU choose????

Oh, and he’s married to actress Amy Smart. #teethwhitening2.0

4. Cindy Crawford has perfect teeth. There is a late night infomercial that will sell you the rare juice/oil of a European cantaloupe to ensure you will age as well as the 45 year old Cindy Crawford. Her perfect teeth seem to confirm the ad’s claim that Cindy uses the juice ALONG with a strict health regimen to all parts of her body, including her teeth.  Not that anyone is looking at her mouth.  Or – are they? (Note: One wouldn’t know any of this unless he/she had unwanted surgery on a part of the body they neglected that wound up keeping them awake in the middle of the night).

5. Waiting sucks.  Having an oral medical “procedure” is not unlike queuing up for gasoline in the 1980s – there’s always a wait.  In our case, it was done to 45 minutes of MUZAK that included a mix tape of Jackson Browne’s greatest hits.  Not to get too “nasty” about a “Jackson” but — do you ever need to hear “Running On Empty” again??  Not if you’re really nasty. #MissJacksonifyouare

6. You will never be on the political stage… but will forever be forced to listen to them.  This came particularly into focus when out of sheer desperation I happened to hear vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan speaking before what must be a made-up entity called the Family Values Association.  Honestly, if Ryan was a private in the military and I had to save him, I wouldn’t.  Spielberg or not.

7. The drugs aren’t worth it. You don’t get the drugs of your choice when you get surgery, just the drugs they give you.  I don’t like things like Percoset.  They make me feel groggy and weird.  But when I try to explain that medical marijuana dispensaries are legal in California I get a blank look from my doctor. #Truckin’

8. Your dreams come to haunt you.  While under the influence, you will invent and watch more imagined tacky television shows than you can imagine just for your own perverse amusement and then be embarrassed for thinking them up.  This includes programs like “The American Bible Challenge” on the Game Show Network where comedian host Jeff Foxworthy tests your knowledge of scripture and then awards cash prizes you are then forced to donate to charity, and Showtime’s “Gigolos,” which centers on a group of overly muscled, tanned and tattooed “males of the evening” in Las Vegas who compete against each other for lady clients.  This is not so bad in itself until you wake up the next day and realize that both of these programs exist and that real life has become your nightmare. #SetyourDVRifudontbelieveme

Actually, THIS is your brain on drugs.

9. Faulty tech equipment. The music guaranteed to drown out the loud sound of drills and strong gloved hands digging other pointy instruments into roof of your mouth, can easily get derailed when you realize the right ear of your headset is devoid of music but not what else is happening in the room. This is especially disconcerting because your right ear is your one good ear in addition to the side of your face that contains the gum in question and is being treated to the sounds of all the excavating action. #SeeMeFeelMe

10. Mouthus Interruptus. –You might think your dentist is brilliant, rich, painless and powerful but you didn’t take into account his desirability will likely cause you to feel like one of those large pieces of real estate that was halted mid-construction by the global economic crisis.  This happens when he walks away to take a phone call from a more important client with either a bigger emergency or a bigger name (since he is the best and very much in demand) and leaves you with a lot of dangling metal instruments and cottony stuffing in your mouth (the kind of cottony you see on the insulating walls of unfinished buildings).  To carry the metaphor even further, you have no earthly idea when work will resume, despite the written contract you both entered into prior to when said work began.

10. Bradley Cooper is still single. #Nuffsaid

11. Angelina Jolie is technically still single .  And she could help you with your career. #Itaintovertillitsover4eitherofu

The new Brad and Angie

12. Trash TV has its limits.  You don’t want to get to the point where you’re so bitter that the only reason you know you’re feeling better is that a) you’re angry you weren’t able to guess the #1 scandal in the Logo special “Scandalicious: 20 JUCIEST CELEBRITY SCANDALS OF PASSION” and b) you are even more angry that your choice was #2.

(FYI – Arnold Schwarzenegger having a child with the maid who helped Maria Shriver raise their children was my #1 choice at #2.  Logo’s #1 choice was the far less scandalicious Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher).  #Theyresolame or #AndyCohenrotinhell

13. Really good doctors are really good actors. Each one can make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room if they want to and at some point they will want to and you will want to believe them.  (Note:  This is why it’s perilous to have too many actor friends – you never quite know how much is true friendship or just a dramatic evocation of one).

So inevitably, this year’s winner of best doctor in a starring role will give you all the care and attention of the best Meryl Streep character when they’re with you but once you blink back to reality and the performance is over they’re suddenly gone and the only reminder you’ll have is the pain in your missing or mended body part when you receive their bill.

On a more immediate basis, this leaves solely their assistant to explain to you the do’s and don’ts of what you’re told is imperative post surgical care while one side of your face feels like a side of beef and the other side, the one with the good ear, is now on the fritz because Amy Winehouse finally kicked in too loudly on the doctor-supplied fritzy headset at the tail end of your surgery.

He wears a mask afterall!

14. You’re a dork. Your eagerness to leave a medical office in disgust and neglect is interrupted by your actor/doctor actually returning in true sensitive Streep-ian fashion to give you a well-prepared, type-written check list of post surgical instructions and to spend time with you kindly answering any questions.   He even puts a reassuring hand on your shoulder.  Now you feel like the little jerk played that year by Katherine Heigl because you leapt to such a snap judgment. Still, since he was billed to you as “the best” and in our case this is Beverly Hills, one still has to wonder– DOES he really care or IS he just acting??

15. It’s never over. Once you see a specialty dentist they are in your life forever– sort of like when that one night stand produces a child. (Speaking of Ms. Heigl).  So it should not surprise you when you are told to book two follow up appointments in the next six weeks and, now that your surgery has been completed, you are not given your doctor’s optimum morning appointments but relegated to mid-afternoon AND told you’re being squeezed in.  This is like both marriage AND divorce. #Ihavecustodyoftheteeth

16. No one will talk to you about it (except on this blog). The percentage of people who want to know anything about gum or dental surgery is equal to the percentage of those who would watch a rebroadcast loop of both the 2012 Republican and Democratic presidential conventions rather than a new season of either “Arrested Development” or “I Love Lucy” with its original cast.  #nochanceinhell

17. Imposed censorship. After you have any kind of dental surgery you are told it is imperative to keep your mouth clean.  How do you do this when you take pride in a lifetime of having done anything but this up until now?  #phuku

Speak no evil.

18. You don’t love baby formula.  Dental or full body, your post-surgery food will be as exciting as baby formula – soft, bland and gooey.  To compensate you will decide to eat excessive amounts of chocolate or other delectably mushy desserts of your choice.  Thus, you will either gain weight or shorten your life (or perhaps both) while you think you are really convalescing.

19.  Goodbye Tooth Fairy, Hello Hitler.  You will never again have to fear a new dental specialist who will remind you of the Nazi doctor who tortured Dustin Hoffman in the dentist’s chair sans anesthesia in “Marathon Man.”  Or, for that matter, be afraid the love child of Jack Nicholson and Steve Martin’s demented dentists will come back to haunt you in that ill-advised 3-D studio remake of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

20. One less thing to worry about. You have to cut down somewhere in that category.  What’s worse – carrying some waxy thread or experiencing any of the above ever again? #tellemJohnny