All posts by Jesse

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Tribeca 2019, Part 2: American Women

If my first batch of Tribeca movies featured a lot of woodsy scenes, Clementine (Grade: B-) occupies a whole woodsy subgenre: the Two Women in a Cabin movie. Another title for this obscure-ass video shelf, Always Shine, premiered at Tribeca a few years ago; another, Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth, was his first time giving Elisabeth Moss a starring role, an uncomfortable prelude to their current collaboration Her Smell. Clementine, Lara Gallagher’s feature directing debut, doesn’t derive its tension from two women who are ostensibly close friends but secretly ready to maybe throttle each other; Karen (Otmara Marrero), unlike the characters in those other two movies, admits at the outset that she just wants to be left alone. Then again, she has a weird way of showing it: She breaks into her older, imperious-sounding ex-girlfriend’s vacation home, and decompresses from their recent break-up.

Her solitude is disrupted by Lana (Sydney Sweeney), a girl-next-door of indeterminate door. She shows up asking Karen, a stranger at least five or six years her senior, to drive her around and help find her lost dog. Karen both doubts the existence of this dog and agrees to help, and for the rest of the movie, the two women circle each other with uneasy fascination and sometimes flirtation. Gallagher takes her time, and never goes into full-blown psycho-stalker territory; Clementine often feels like a movie about two women deciding whether or not the other is a stalker, an object of obsession, or something in between. The film has a short-story quality that drags, a little, at 90 minutes; written out at 25 pages, this might be masterful (and would probably seem a lot more eventful). But I admire its quiet precision, even if it its outlines look a little thinly sketched.

There’s a similarly uneasy quality to the relationship between the two central women of American Woman (likely to underdo a name change, as it shares a title with an upcoming and unrelated Sienna Miller film). This American Woman (Grade: B-) has an impressive pedigree: It’s an adaptation of the Pulitzer-nominated Susan Choi novel, written and directed by Semi Chellas, a Mad Men staffer, fictionalizing the story of kidnapper-turned-radical Patty Hearst. Sarah Gadon takes the Hearst-ish role, while Hong Chau plays a radical-in-hiding hired to look after her. She’s also supposed to encourage ringleader Juan (John Gallagher Jr.) and his partner Yvonne (Lola Kirke) to put their experiences down on paper, to self-publish and further their cause, but good luck with that; the pair is antsy and unfocused.

A bond of sorts develops between Gadon and Chau, and Chau is especially terrific as a radical who has grown accustomed to containing and managing her emotions to survive. In just a few movies (she was great in the underappreciated Downsizing), she’s become an expert at showing women working, pushing through their personal feelings to get shit down. But the movie oddly elides a lot of the pair’s one-on-one time; they aren’t isolated from the other major characters until the movie is nearly over. American Woman has an ambiguity, sense of place, and performances worthy of Mad Men, but there’s something frustratingly elusive about it. It doesn’t make a clean break from its real-life inspiration, and winds up feeling like a docudrama even though the characters are made up. But Chellas and Choi are both artists to watch.

Every Adam Sandler Character from SNL, Ranked

The SportsAlcohol.com editorial core closely follows Saturday Night Live, and perhaps not coincidentally also closely follows the career of Adam Sandler, through a series of numerous lows and occasional highs. So obviously some of our most misguided interests were piqued when it was announced that the Sandman was down for his first-ever Saturday Night Live hosting gig, airing this Saturday, May 4th, on the good old NBC television network. Sandler has returned to the show for a few celebrations and one show-opening musical number, but he’s demurred on the possibility of hosting for many years. Though he currently alternates Netflix movies with the occasional arthouse indie picture (!), Sandler is still a major star, and his return to the show where he spent an uneven five years as a writer and performer qualifies to us as a major pop-culture event. So we decided to figure out a complete ranking of Sandler’s (non-impression) recurring characters from his SNL years.

As it turns out, there aren’t really that many; one of these 16 “characters” doesn’t really qualify, and 6 of the remaining 15 are Weekend Update bits. Really, Sandler’s signature character was, well, Adam Sandler: the guitar-playing or Halloween-costume-suggesting goofball who showed up at the Update desk to goad Kevin Nealon into singing or to make faces at Norm MacDonald and/or Chris Farley. Sandler is not a virtuosic sketch performer; his stand-up comedy roots show, and it’s arguable that the stand-up-bro sensibility of so many mid-90s cast members is what led to one of the program’s worst slumps. But Sandler and his guys — Chris Farley, David Spade, to a much lesser extent Rob Schneider — all had great moments on the show.

To rank these characters,, I sent a master list to a bunch of people who I thought might know or care enough about Adam Sandler to send back ranked ballots. Only I, Nathaniel, and SNL fan Brian had enough of an opinion to weigh in. And, as it turns out, our ballots were often pretty much in sync, making this an unusually strong consensus in terms of what goes where. The Sandman: the great uniter…of people who watched him on SNL when they were younger.
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Tribeca 2019, Part 1: Into the Woods

There are certain types of indie movies I’ve seen a lot in seven years or so of Tribeca Film Festival coverage: the gritty coming-of-age movie, the would-be scrappy rom-com (more on that in a future dispatch!), the slow-burn thriller. But it was still a little surprising that at Tribeca 2019, I saw no fewer than three movies in a row that featured following shots of its characters traipsing through woodsy environs. The movies had very little to do with each other. Sometimes it’s just one of those things.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Billboard Hits of 1999

The SportsAlcohol.com editorial core has kind of a thing for the ’90s. But sometimes just talking about the best of that decade isn’t enough; sometimes we need to travel back in time exactly 20 years and go through the good, the bad, and the ugly of the annual Billboard Hot 100. We did it for 1996, and in this anniversary year for 1999, we’re at it again! Shania Twain, Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind, Brandy and/or Monica, N’Sync and/or Alabama (whoever they are)! They’re all here and you’ll never guess which ones Rob and/or Jesse and/or Marisa love and/or hate! You’ll have to listen to fin dout.

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

PET SEMATARY wants to punish Jason Clarke, and everyone else, for being such a fuck-up

With Pet Sematary, Jason Clarke has truly arrived. Not as a Hollywood leading man; he’s already played John Connor (in a Terminator if not The Terminator), the main guy in a Planet of the Apes sequel, and a bunch of prominent roles in prestige-y pictures like Mudbound, The Great Gatsby, and Chappaquiddick. In 2019, Clarke has arguably already blown past the traditional leading-man phase of his career, and gone into Patrick Wilson territory, which I would define as operating in a perpetual state of former leading man.

This is not the same as a perpetual Baxter/Ralph Bellamy type, like Bill Pullman in 1993, or James Marsden in the early 2000s, playing the nice, handsome, normal guy who often loses the girl to someone cooler, handsomer, and less normal. Those characters are hardly ever actually leading roles, their reduced screen presence tipping the audience off about who the real star is. But Jason Clarke is the main character in Pet Sematary, just as sure as Patrick Wilson is the male lead of Insidious, Little Children, Watchmen, and Young Adult among others. He’s not playing the same guy in all of these movies, but there’s definitely a vibe (reinforced by his work on the indelible Girls episode “One Man’s Trash”): the handsome guy who’s in some supposed position of power, authority, or contentment, but operating with some kind of faded glory, lack of gumption, or dark secret. He is, whether pleasantly (Young Adult) or destructively (Insidious), the golden boy gone slightly to seed. He’s often a husband and/or a father, and he’s usually trying, if not necessarily his best. Often, he’s just a little too passive or outmatched by someone. He gets in over his head. It’s not his fault, except it kind of is.
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Shazam! is another superhero movie that’s not like all the other superhero movies that aren’t like other superhero movies

Shazam!, based on the DC Comics hero originally called Captain Marvel and originally not published by DC Comics, stars Zachary Levi, who once appeared in a Thor movie for Marvel Studios. Levi plays the hero; the bad guy is played by Mark Strong, who also played a supporting role (and unrealized future bad guy) in Green Lantern, based on the DC Comics hero, but unconnected to the current DC Comics movies. Shazam! also co-stars Djimon Hounsou, who also has a supporting role in Captain Marvel, currently in theaters, a separate character from Shazam, the former Captain Marvel, and based in part on the Marvel Comics hero originally called Ms. Marvel.

Shazam! is about a teenager learning to wield his superpowers responsibly, like Marvel’s Spider-Man; it’s also concerns the effects of those superpowers on family dynamics—sort of like The Incredibles, a Disney film which is not based on a comic book, but owes a lot to the Fantastic Four, whose movie rights were recently welcomed back into the Disney fold when Disney completed its purchase of 20th Century Fox’s film division. The end credits of Shazam! feature charmingly scrawled drawings of the main character’s superheroic antics, followed by a post-credits scene goofing on another superhero, both elements that recall Deadpool, an offshoot of the X-Men series, which was also recently absorbed back into Disney via Fox. Disney, of course, owns Marvel, and Captain Marvel, but not Shazam!, which belongs to Warner Bros., which owns DC, which bought the character from Fawcett, the company that originally published stories about Shazam, back when he was called Captain Marvel.
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Watching Mel Gibson Again: DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE

Mel Gibson was “canceled” in Hollywood before “canceled” was really a thing that could be done to a person instead of a TV show, but in a weird way, his shunning was (for lack of a better phrase) well-timed, beyond even the apparent breaking point of his drunken violence, misogyny, and anti-Semitism. Gibson didn’t really fall from grace until the mid-2000s, saving him the trouble of adapting to a re-aligned movie-star economy. His ‘90s peers in superstardom dealt with it in different ways: Julia Roberts stepped back, Tom Cruise tried to push forward like nothing had changed, and Tom Hanks made a graceful transition to late-middle-aged muse-following (give or take a terrible Dan Brown adaptation or three). Gibson seemed to be pivoting to directing when he made the torturous megahit The Passion of the Christ and the less mega (but also less tedious, honestly probably career-beest) Apocalypto, but after his star fell, he seemed keen on pivoting back into movie-star pulp and/or image maintenance. Audiences mostly stayed away, except for his recent part in the recent Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg sequel Daddy’s Home 2.
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GLORIA BELL: Is it time for Generation X to get its groove back?!

Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria Bell, a remake of his Chilean film Gloria from six years ago, follows the broad outline of a light dramedy about a middle-aged woman getting, as the Terry McMillan phrase goes, her groove back. Gloria (Julianne Moore) is fiftysomething, gainfully employed, outwardly cheerful and maybe a little bit lonely. Her children are grown, her divorce long since finalized, and she even has a cute-movie-ready hobby: We first see her out at a dance club, populated by other middle-aged folks, eyes searching and hopeful. She likes to dance, though a lot of her moves are tentative.

Early in the movie, Gloria meets Arnold (John Turturro). They dance together, and soon they’re in a bona fide relationship–passionate, but seemingly with potential that extends beyond a sexy post-club fling. Re-energized sex life… romantic restaurants… her groove! Is it back?! But with the basic framework of a middle-age-revitalization story in place, Lelio feels free to dance around it. Stories like this, especially when they’re focused on providing some degree of fantastical wish-fulfillment, are often belabored with exposition about the protagonist’s normal, perhaps humdrum life. In Gloria Bell, we learn a lot of details about Gloria’s life with a quickness and a clarity that recalls Greta Gerwig or Noah Baumbach (he even captures Moore singing along in her car, alone, in a few shots that recall the intimacy of Gerwig’s earliest moments in Baumbach’s Greenberg). She works for some kind of insurance firm, mostly on the phones. Her young-ish son (Michael Cera) is a single parent to an infant. Gloria does not own a cat, but a hairless one keeps slipping into her apartment somehow. All of this plays out in concise and well-observed micro-scenes, with a near pathological avoidance of overstaying their welcome.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: High Flying Bird

The SportsAlcohol.com affinity for Steve Soderbergh has been well-documented, and then Soderbergh had to go and do something to entice us even more: He put out a movie on Netflix that we could all watch, about sports (Rob), business (Ben), and the commodification of the body, again (everyone!) that reminded some people of Moneyball (Rob again). So naturally, Marisa, Jesse, Rob, and Ben convened a podcast summit to talk this all out. How does this stack up to past Soderbergh triumphs? Is this the Moneyball we deserve? Will we ever seize the means of production?! Listen to our crisp DIY episode (and our sportiest episode ever!) and find out!

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

Is Neil Jordan’s GRETA deliciously bonkers, or just kind of bad?

Neil Jordan’s new movie Greta is a thriller in which a just-graduated young woman (Chloe Grace Moretz), still grieving from the death of her mother, finds herself bedeviled by Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an older woman who initially appears to be a sweet surrogate mom figure but turns out to be a dangerous obsessive. It’s the stuff early-’90s stalker movies were made of, and the throwback angle combined with access to new technology and Jordan’s considerable talent, not to mention a plum role for Huppert, give the movie a buzz of anticipation as it starts to unfold.

That buzz grows dimmer and more erratic as the movie explores the life of Frances (Moretz), who has moved to New York (played mostly by Canada and Ireland) to share a fancy Tribeca apartment with her spoiled best friend Erica (Maika Monroe). The two women speak mostly in awkward exposition, like, well, a couple of middle-aged guys making their best guess at what 22-year-olds sound like. Restless and unsure of herself in the big city, Frances finds a purse abandoned on the 6 train. She tracks down the owner, Huppert’s Greta, who invites her into her charming little house (of undetermined location) for tea. Soon Frances is going to dinner with Greta and helping her adopt a dog, as Erica rolls her eyes over her friend’s weird social engagements.
Continue reading Is Neil Jordan’s GRETA deliciously bonkers, or just kind of bad?