HELLRAISER (1987)

(hoopla/Pluto/Prime/tubi/VOD) The original HELLRAISER is a very specific film. You are either very into it or you are not. I remember watching it as a young teen and laughing at it. My friends and I would routinely trot out the line: “The box. It summons us.” as camp, but the film held an odd, unknown allure to me. Then I rewatched it early on in college — I still have my HELLRAISER 1 & 2 VHS box set — and as a burgeoning club-going goth realized how it is literally wall-to-wall kink.

I’ve seen it more than several times since — once at the Music Box with Clive Barker to discuss it, which was amazing and I still can’t believe happened — and my appreciation for it only grows. The costume and creature and production design is absolute perfection. Jane Wildgoose does not get enough credit for her contributions.

The film is relentlessly, unapologetically horny in an unsettlingly thrilling way. The great Amy Nicholson posited that, at the heart of it, it’s a neo-noir, that Julia is a femme fatale and I certainly agree: it is a film centered around morally dubious people who are off-kilter, and what is more noir than that?

TRIANGLE (2009)

(AMC+/hoopla/kanopy/peacock/tubi/etc.) TRIANGLE is a sort of THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT meets TIMECRIMES horror-thriller that’s tautly and expertly woven by SEVERANCE (2006) writer/director Christopher Smith. It features Melissa George (best known by me via her time on ALIAS but she was also a lead in 30 DAYS OF NIGHT), and really, that’s all you need to know.

EBERTFEST 2022 – PART I: FRENCH EXIT (2020), PASSING (2021), GOLDEN ARM (2020), GHOST WORLD (2001)

For whatever reason, Ebertfest is a film festival that is often overlooked, despite the fact that it’s been running for over twenty years, despite the fact that it was the singular vision of Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, who shaped the field of film studies for years to come and is still wildly revered today, Ebertfest — for some reason I can’t figure out — simply isn’t sexy enough.

Yes, it’s true: it doesn’t traffic in exclusive premieres. Yes, the screenings occur in the beautiful and sizable Virginia Theatre, but it resides in the college town of Champaign, IL, where Roger Ebert got his start writing reviews for the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign newspaper.

However, after attending my first Ebertfest — Ebertfest 2022 — I’m flabbergasted as to why so few cinephiles don’t see this as one of the few North American waypoints of film festivals. It’s by far one of the friendliest film festivals I’ve ever attended. It lacks the snobbery you often see in genre film fests, or the ‘there to be seen’ vibe some attendees exude. Additionally, all of the special guests invited to introduce and/or discuss the film afterwards? They’re clearly absolutely tickled to be there.

I’m not sure if this is because Ebertfest was created out of love for film from a man who was extremely generous championing cinema and his alma matter, or whether it’s because it takes place in a smaller midwest city, or perhaps because it has been around for over twenty years and many of those who attend are locals who have attended the festival for many years.

Either way, it was utterly delightful, and I wish I had made the journey earlier. His wife, Chaz, has kept the festival going since the world lost Roger, and with her enthusiasm, spirit, and love for film, Ebertfest is in great hands. Without further ado, here are some brief musings on the films I managed to catch:

FRENCH EXIT (2020)

(Starz/VOD) This year’s Ebertfest unofficial theme was ‘overlooked films’, honoring the films that slipped through the cracks for one reason or another, and there are few better examples of a film that was give short shrift due to the pandemic than FRENCH EXIT. The latest from Azazel Jacobs (THE LOVERS, DOLL AND ‘EM) featured the return of Michelle Pfeiffer to the silver screen, but its theatrical rollout was muted and, thanks to a very delayed VOD release, was mostly ignored.

The lack of attention, critical or public, is a damn shame because FRENCH EXIT is a thoughtful throwback of a 90s indie ensemble film with a modern sheen. FRENCH EXIT — based on the novel by Jacobs’ good friend Patrick deWitt, who also penned the screenplay — features Frances (Pfeiffer), an acerbic, flinty NYC widower whose rich husband, Franklin, died under suspicious circumstances and left her with a rather valuable estate and assets. Her son, Malcolm (Lucas Hedges, perhaps best known for his role as Danny in LADY BIRD), is a curious but rather aimless young man, and he’s been spinning his wheels about telling his mother about his fiancée Susan (a rather under-utilized Imogen Poots). Frances comes to the realization that she’s finally spent through everything, has to liquidate her cherished home, and finds herself moving to a more affordable abode in Paris with Malcolm.

What follows is a mesmerizing character study that unfurls into a surreal web of human connections. It’s a story that feels unmoored of time, both the passage of and any concrete notion of era, although it does seem to be firmly affixed anywhere-but-now. The end result isn’t necessarily satisfying, but it is captivating with its visual construction and vibrant flourishes of color as the camera traverses through the streets, then gliding through Frances and Franklin’s living spaces. (Look carefully and you can see a few nods to Jacques Tati’s masterpiece PLAYTIME, noted in the post-film discussion by the director himself.)

While Pfeiffer is the obvious draw for the film — rightfully so, as she perfectly conveys Frances’ sense of pride tinged with a hint of self-dissatisfaction — the rest of the cast boldly embellishes the film: television mainstay Valerie Mahaffey brings some well-received laughs, Frances’ best friend is Susan Coyne (best known to fans of Canadian television, and who co-created and occasionally appeared on the best show about theatre, SLINGS & ARROWS), Danielle Macdonald (DUMPLIN’, BIRD BOX) provides significant snark as a professional medium, and Tracy Letts has a role that I’ll let you discover for yourself.

PASSING (2021)

(Netflix) If you only saw Rebecca Hall’s glorious black-and-white adaptation of Nella Larsen’s novel of being a Black woman in Harlem in 1929 via streaming through your TV (or, heavens forbid, on your phone), then you are missing out. Yes, PASSING’s grand pull is the dynamic performances from Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, but visually it is so exacting — almost, almost! clinically so — that it merits several rewatches on the largest screen possible. The way Eduard Grau (who also shot Tom Ford’s A SINGLE MAN) utilizes the overhead lines of the urban landscape, how he finesses the camera through Irene’s (Thompson) home and then echoes the same motions near the very end of the film is astounding precise in a way that enthralls without calling too much attention to itself.

There’s a lot to love, to think about, to extoll, to muse over with PASSING, but to fully appreciate it and its visual achievement, its best done in a theater.

GOLDEN ARM (2020)

(hoopla/kanopy/VOD) GOLDEN ARM, penned by best friends Anne Marie Allison and Jenna Milly, was self-described by them as “BRIDESMAIDS meets OVER THE TOP”. Now, if you’re a certain age like I am, you may fondly remember OVER THE TOP; it was a quintessential ‘only in the 80s’ type of ‘underdog takes on a niche professional sport’ film that featured Sylvester Stallone as a trucker working his way up through the rungs of the arm-wrestling world to regain custody of his son and get his own trucking company off the ground.

GOLDEN ARM opens with Danny (Betsy Sodaro, who you’ve probably seen or heard in a comedy at some point in your life), a very squat, very brash woman tearing through an arm-wrestling playoff competition, her eye on heading to the finals when Brenda, The Bone Crusher (Olivia Stambouliah) walks in and swiftly dashes Danny’s hopes by shattering her wrist.

Danny, desperate for revenge, seeks out Melanie (Mary Holland, HAPPIEST SEASON, VEEP, and so many other works) her best friend from college, who she recalls as having a deceptively strong arm. Danny finds Melanie in the midst of divorcing her terrible dudebro of a husband while helming her long-gone grandmother’s failing bakery, trying to scrounge up enough cash to replace her faltering oven. Long story short: Danny talks her into filling in for her on the circuit, and we’re treated to the requisite number of training montages and heart-crushing loses, loses that quickly become buoyed by rollickingly amusing feel-good moments.

GOLDEN ARM is an extraordinarily winsome film, one led primarily by its hilarious cast — if you are a comedy fan, it’s wall-to-wall talent, including: Eugene Cordero (THE GOOD PLACE, LOKI), Aparna Nancherla (A SIMPLE FAVOR, MYTHIC QUEST, so much voiceover work), Kate Flannery (THE OFFICE (US)), Dot-Marie Jones (GLEE, Olympic athlete and multiple world arm-wrestling champion) Dawn Luebbe (GREENER GRASS), and of course since it’s about wrestling, you know comedian Ron Funches (POWERLESS, and also so many voiceover parts) has a prominent role.

However, it’s Betsy Sodaro who really stands out. She brings a physicality to her hyperactive, over-enthusiastic, pansexual character that consistently entertains and befuddles. It’s rare to see a film lean into a woman throwing herself around and against everything in this day and age — pratfalls are hardly trendy in film right now — and it’s damn refreshing. Here’s hoping someone is penning a BLACK SHEEP-like film for her right now.

While GOLDEN ARM could coast by on its quips, slapstick, and charm alone, first-time feature director Maureen Bharoocha and cinematographer Christopher Messina provide a colorful contrast between the bright costumes of the wrestlers and the dingy, filthy, tiny shitholes everyone has to train and perform in. More often than not everyone’s tightly framed, not only emphasizing the wide range of expressions of the elastic performers, but also lending a sweaty, authentic claustrophobic feel to the material.

GOLDEN ARM is a crowdpleaser of a film and, unfortunately it appears that it won’t receive the wide theatrical rollout it deserves, as it’s a perfect summer comedy. It’s now available on VOD, so invite a few friends over, make a theme night of it, and get that word of mouth going.

GHOST WORLD (2001)

(epix/Paramount+/Prime/VOD) Part of the allure of Ebertfest is that each and every screening is paired with a post-film discussion featuring directors, writers, producers, actors, etc., often folks who rarely bother with appearing at film festivals unless it’s contractually required to do so for promotional purposes. Because of Ebert’s prominence, and because his and his widow Chaz’s festival is so well-regarded, they’re able to wrangle some big names, folks that are more than happy to show up and shoot the shit for however long they want.

GHOST WORLD closed out the penultimate fest night, and they managed to wrangle both Terry Zwigoff and Thora Birch to treat the night right. Zwigoff opened with an ‘anti-semitic review of GHOST WORLD’ read in jest by the recently departed Gilbert Gottfried (you can hear it here), who was slated to attend Ebertfest alongside the relatively recently documentary about Gottfried’s life, GILBERT. Birch was presented with the award all first-time attendees receive: the Ebert Golden Thumb.

Once the credits rolled and the curtain closed, both Zwigoff and Birch were back out on stage, regaling us with on-set stories, musings, jokes, pokes at the industry, and the like — Birch in particular was quite blunt and forthcoming about her experiences. There was a game enthusiasm in the air, an easy rapport that is often not found in film fests, one that’s emblematic of the general spirit at Ebertfest in general.


If you’d like to see any of the panels or Q&As, each and every one is available via the Ebertfest YouTube channel!

THE SOUVENIR (2019)

(hoopla/kanopy/Prime/Showtime/VOD) I saw THE SOUVENIR during its theatrical release on a sparsely attended Sunday afternoon matinee at the Lakeview Century Cinema, an act only a handful of Chicago folks would do, even in the before times.

THE SOUVENIR is a story from writer/director Joanna Hogg — who also wrote and directed EXHIBITION, which I dragged some folks to a Chicago International Film Fest screening many years ago which I loved, but I’m pretty sure they have yet to forgive me — about a young woman named Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne, and yes, Tilda Swinton appears as her mother) who makes terrible relationship decisions that she firmly believes in, but can’t see that they’re awful. Classic youth romanticism. There’s a lot of class work thrown in, commentary about art and film, facets of addiction and the like, but ultimately it’s about her navigating, discovering, reckoning.

Right before the credits rolled, I thought I couldn’t love THE SOUVENIR more, then it closed out with a new Anna Calvi song (see also the previously recommended music video STRANGE WEATHER) and I shivered. Then an older women behind me complained to her companion:

“I don’t know, the whole film was weird. I mean, this song too! So weird!”

Damn right it was, and we need more of it.

Astoundingly, Hogg received funding for a sequel in which Robert Pattinson was to co-star. Then COVID and THE BATMAN happened, but the sequel did go into production — sans Pattinson — and is now in theaters! Give yourself the dramatic double-feature you deserve!

Halloween 2021 Programming: CULT

As previously noted, my wife and I have a tradition where I draft up a selection of horror films for Halloween viewing, and she picks one from each group: Contemporary, Classic, and Cult, and I thought I’d share my suggestions this year. Today features cult horror films, and mostly features the exact text I sent her. And yes, I know, defining what is horror and what is considered ‘cult’ horror is like splitting hairs, but rule of three, folks!

Again, apologies for leaning on prior works. Again, Halloween weekend! I have other terrors to read, watch, and write!

HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II (1987, AMC+/hoopla/peacock/Shudder/tubi/VOD/Vudu) or PROM NIGHT III: THE LAST KISS (1990, YouTube)

Previously suggested. “The first PROM NIGHT is fine, but mostly remembered because of how bare Jamie Lee Curtis gets, and for riffing on CARRIE. PROM NIGHT II twists the first film’s premise and goes for broke — also, a rare woman supernatural slasher, and they were clearly hoping some of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET would rub off on the film — and PROM NIGHT III turns the franchise into an amazing, albeit often puerile, horror-comedy. They’re both very entertaining and smart in their own ways.”

PROM NIGHT II trailer:

PROM NIGHT III trailer:

Shh, don’t tell anyone but, as it’s practically impossible to stream a legal version, here you are:

MATINEE (1993, Starz/VOD)

A Joe Dante (GREMLINS, INNERSPACE) work, which means warm-hearted love for misfit youths and being scared by B-movies, while still having a subversive political voice and viewpoint. It was one of the first post-lockdown films I saw at the Music Box, but it’s endlessly re-watchable.

READY OR NOT (2019, VOD)

(Editor’s note: I cheated a bit here, as I normally would consider this contemporary and not cult, although I fully believe it’s destined to become a cult film. I also lifted most of it for my write-up.)

This one really surprised me: it’s a darkly comic fusion of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME with Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, with an amazing cast that includes Andie MacDowell, Samara Weaving (Thea, from BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC), Adam Brody (probably don’t need to write this but: from THE OC, JENNIFER’S BODY, GILMORE GIRLS), Melanie Scrofano (Wynonna in WYNONNA EARP), and Kristian Bruun (Donnie from ORPHAN BLACK). It’s a surprisingly well-executed film. I recently happened upon a promotional READY OR NOT shirt I received for the film when I left a 24-hour film fest early last year, and opted to keep it as a nostalgia shirt, sitting alongside my BLAIR WITCH PROJECT shirt.

Even though I don’t believe in spoilers, I would stop the trailer after the first minute. There are a ton of fun surprises in the film that work great with the trailer, but even better if you experience them in the film itself.

Tomorrow: CLASSICS!

WICKED STEPMOTHER (1989)

(Hoopla/VOD) WICKED STEPMOTHER (1989) WICKED STEPMOTHER has horror elements, but is really a dark comedy. It is also best known as being Bette Davis’ last film — sadly, while she brings a ton of energy to the role that’s left to the film, she’s clearly ailing — but it’s also penned and directed by the legendary Larry Cohen (RIP). The on-screen direction is clearly tumultuous (you can read more about the troubled production here and especially here, from Cohen himself) but, in short, it boils down to Bette Davis quitting the production midway through because she said she was frustrated with how she was portrayed, but she eventually admitted it was because of health issues — which resulted in rewrites in order to get -something- usable to the screen that still included Davis, as well as a lawsuit against Davis

I’m not going to say that WICKED STEPMOTHER is a great film, but it is a lot of fun. Sure, there’s a lot of extremely schtick-y vaudeville camp involved, but it made me laugh, and it definitely aligns with the slapstick horror vein of the late 80s/early 90s.

PLEASE STAND BY (2017)

(hoopla/kanopy/VOD) I’ll preface this by saying this isn’t exactly a recommendation. I found merit with the film and ultimately enjoyed it, but it is not a perfect work and is, perhaps, inherently exploitative.

PLEASE STAND BY is the story of a young autistic woman, Wendy (Dakota Fanning), who has been placed in Toni Collette’s home for autistic individuals by her older sister Audrey (Alice Eve), who has recently had a kid and self-proclaims that she doesn’t have the time to babysit Wendy as well.

Wendy, who has always been a huge STAR TREK nerd, sorts this out by writing a four-hundred some-odd page STAR TREK screenplay involving the complicated relationship between Spock and Kirk — Spock representing herself, Kirk representing her sister — for a $100,000 competition to celebrate STAR TREK’s 50th anniversary. Shortly after Wendy completes the absurdly long script, she realizes there’s not enough time to mail it, so she has to go on a journey to deliver it by hand.

A personal note: when I was a kid, I -loved- STAR TREK, and I particularly identified with Spock because he struggled with similar emotional issues that I grappled with. So, to see Wendy do the same warmed my heart, even if Spock is one of the easiest autistic analogues.

PLEASE STAND BY mirrors another relatively recent work centered around an autistic protagonist, Mark Haddon’s THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME: autistic person is mostly sheltered, has to venture out in the world, and their life becomes a living hell. It, like CURIOUS INCIDENT, was also written by a dude that found the concept of an autistic character ‘interesting’ and ‘challenging’, and they decided they were the ones to tell this story. In the case of PLEASE STAND BY, writer Michael Golamco was inspired by the New York Times article ‘What Autistic Girls Are Made Of’ to write a one-act stageplay, and then turn that into PLEASE STAND BY. (Similarly, CURIOUS INCIDENT started as a novel, then became a Tony award winning musical.)

CURIOUS INCIDENT frustrated me because of how little research Haddon did. He wanted to tell the tale that he envisioned, details be damned. PLEASE STAND BY frustrates me because it’s a work extolling the creative nature of those with autism, but it’s written, directed, and performed by neurotypicals. It feels inherently disingenuous, despite the amount of research and experts they enlisted.

That said, it’s still an entertaining film, with fantastic performances all around, and it seems to have been well-received by the autistic community, especially since it is a positive portrayal of an autistic woman. Representation matters, but I would rather that it wasn’t via the writerly curiosity of a neurotypical man, regardless of how well-wishing his intents were.

**

THE DUST BOWL (2012)

(hoopla/VOD) When I first heard that Ken Burns was working on a documentary about the Dust Bowl, I was already neck-deep doing research for a very Dust Bowl-centric novel and I thought to myself: “Well, I might as well give up on it now, because soon there’ll be a storm of Dust Bowl novels and the market will be exhausted.’”

For whatever reason, that did not happen. (Also, while I did finish a very rough version of the novel, I ended up abandoning it as it deviated too far from what I wanted it to be.) When Burns’ THE DUST BOWL did come out, it didn’t have the buzz that his recent documentaries have had. Hell, I heard more people talking about Burns’ BASEBALL doc than THE DUST BOWL.

Ken Burns has always been able to turn what could be a dull American history lesson into something immensely watchable; dramatic, even. He even managed to make the story of the creation of the United States National Parks into a riveting six-part documentary series. However, the Dust Bowl itself, just on paper, reads like a horror story. It doesn’t necessary require Burns’ deft touch.

If you aren’t familiar with the Dust Bowl, it’s one of the earliest and one of the worst, man-made environmental tragedies ever. Basically, the US government had a ton of unworked land in the Plains and then handled out lots for folks to head west, to settle and farm. Families rushed out and overworked the land to the point where the soil ended up turning to dust. Then a severe drought arrived and, because nothing could grow, there was nothing to catch the wind in the plains. The winds stripped all of the newfound dust from the ground, causing the ‘dust storms’ that barreled over the lands. Oh, and all of this occurred during The Great Depression.

To be clear: we’re not talking about temporary tornados here; we’re talking about stories-high loads of dust covering the lands for days on end. Houses were literally buried in dust. Everything in your house was covered in dust. You ate and breathed dust. The dust chewed through everything, eroding wood, clothing; farm animals would suffocate on it; children spewed up dirt.

These storms lasted for a decade because, there was no way to stop them without rehabilitating the land and, because of the prolonged drought, that simply couldn’t be done, not the way the current farmers tended their lots. Those lands had literally became deserts. Everyone that had been lead out there by the government, told to farm away with abandon, were left with less than nothing. (Yes, this was definitely Burns’ attempt to bring attention to climate change.)

Burns has always been best at leveraging photos for visual props as opposed to film footage, as photos allow him to unfurl his trademark sense of fireside storytelling at his own pace, but there are more than enough snippets of environmental footage that really hammer home the scale, monstrosity, and devastation of the storms. Anyone could make an effective cautionary tale documentary from that footage because it’s that spectacularly unreal, and it encompasses everything about America at that point in time.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike many Burns’ docs, a number of those who lived through the Dust Bowl are still alive, so there are far more first-person accounts than you’d expect from a documentary of his. It’s an enthralling, often tragic documentary, one which captures the tension of how the US was handling the plains at that time.

I’d imagine the same reason why THE DUST BOWL didn’t gain traction like prior Burns documentaries is the same reason I never learned about the Dust Bowl until later in life. It’s the tale of an American failure on American land that was spearheaded by an American government and resulted in the ruin of many American families and individuals. It’s a man-made disaster that folks just want to sweep under the rug and, yeah, that doesn’t make for the coziest viewing, but it’s history worth knowing.

THE MISFITS (1962)

(hoopla/Pluto/VOD) A few things to know about this film:

  • It was Arthur Miller’s first credited screenplay. He claims he wrote it for Marilyn Monroe, his wife at the time, to star in. She hated her character in the film, and the two of them divorced before the film was finished.
  • It was Marilyn Monroe’s final completed feature before she died.
  • Clark Gable cursed Marilyn for often showing up late (if at all) and, due to time constraints, opted to do many of his own stunts.
  • It was Clark Gable’s final film. He died of a heart attack shortly after filming.

I could summarize it as a film where Clark Gable, Eli Wallach, and a post-car crash Montgomery Ward are all infatuated with a mercurial Marilyn Monroe, and they all head out to a wilderness spot to break a bunch of horses, or you could just watch the ‘paddle ball’ scene:

Or the ‘horse breaking’ scene:

(Or, of course, the trailer below.)

THE MISFITS an oil-and-water mixture of a film featuring actors and a filmmaker (the legendary John Huston) and a writer of wildly differing generations and dispositions grating against each other. While you can feel the tension, the frustration simmering between everyone involved, Miller’s screenplay inadvertently works with it, even fueling the over-stressed feeling of the film.

Miller is clearly working out a lot of personal issues out loud and, by doing so, it becomes a complex tale about men and adapting to change, but Monroe was right to be mad: her character is just a shape in a dress who can’t stand to see hurt in the world. He meant to pen a film for his wife, but only cared to flesh out the men that surrounded her. Good on her to dump the motherfucker.

THE MISFITS’ surprisingly avant-garde trailer:

Lastly, the title sequence is quite remarkable, and it was created by George Nelson and Co. Yes, the industrial designer. You can find more info here.

KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE (2016)

(hoopla/kanopy/VOD) Coincidentally, this was released in the same year as CHRISTINE, but by the radical documentarian Robert Greene, again about Christine Chubbuck.

While I dodged Christine’s life events in yesterday’s recommendation of CHRISTINE, I can’t do so here because it’s the crux of this documentary. So, if you’d planned on watching CHRISTINE, go ahead and do so before reading further.

I’ll wait.

Still waiting.

Pad, pad, padding the post.

Okay, ready?

While giving a news report on the local news network she worked for, Christine diverged from the report and said: “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’ and in living color, you are going to see another first—an on-the-air suicide.” She then shot herself in the head, and died shortly after.

While CHRISTINE is a fictionalized exploration of Chubbuck’s psyche, KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE sees Kate Lyn Sheil (previously mentioned: the STRANGE WEATHER music video, also of YOU’RE NEXT and SHE DIES TOMORROW, as well as previously recommended director Sophia Takal’s debut GREEN) doing research for the role of playing Christine Chubbuck.

If you aren’t familiar withe Robert Greene’s work, he plays with the nature of recreation in documentaries. His follow-up, BISBEE ’17, explicitly explores that as he enlists an entire town to recreate what becomes a xenophobic, union-busting exiling of denizens. As a fan of documentaries, I believe this sort of meta-exploration of the inherent exploitation of documentaries is important, but also potentially fraught with their own sort of problems.

That’s why, with KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE, Greene’s smartly — and just as potentially problematically — documentary puts it entirely on Shell’s shoulders, and — if what we’re shown is to be believed — really puts her through the wringer. Shell is recreating Christine, physically and mentally, and it takes its toll.

It’s worth nothing that KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE is partially constructed around the urban legend that Paddy Chayefsky’s NETWORK was inspired by Christine’s on-air suicide, which is complete and utter bullshit — Chayefsky had been workshopping NETWORK well before her suicide — but something Greene defends as “being not quite true seems completely appropriate.”

It’s also worth noting that the dramatic re-enactments are terribly scripted, feel stilted and, apart from a few scenes, probably should’ve been excised completely, even if they were intentionally mawkish. That seemingly undercuts all of the work that everyone — especially Sheil — has done, but I get the feeling Greene doesn’t care.

Before writing these two recommendations, I’d felt that KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE was the ‘better’ film versus CHRISTINE; it conceptually tackles more; it’s more artfully, abstractly constructed; the intent is to take a magnifying lens to why we want to examine this story. Today, I’m not so sure.

At the end of the day, it’s still just a bunch of dudes reappropriating Christine’s story for their own reasons, for reasons she Christine herself probably wouldn’t agree with, which seems like the biggest sin here. Fundamentally, this is a story about a woman trying to live the life she’d set out for herself. The fact that she lived in a masculine world of journalism, or that she killed herself in what would be considered a masculine way, shouldn’t require a masculine retelling, but instead we received two re-appropriations of the tale.

“You have to tell me why you want to see it. … Are you happy now?”