[guest post by JVW]
As a quarter-century-long denizen of the City of Angels (well, OK — really the County of Angels) I spent years and years reading Los Angeles magazine. Even if you aren’t familiar with that particular periodical, you undoubtedly have seen a cookie cutter version in your own neck of the woods: the urban or regional journal chronicling fashion, the arts, commerce, politics, cuisine, and other important aspects of the surrounding area. All of these magazines at some point (usually late spring or early summer) publish a “Best Of” issue in which they guide you to what they believe are the most outstanding exemplars of dry cleaning, spa treatments, street tacos, yoga instruction, private preschooling, and other trendy obsessions of the upper-middle class, and then they use their pronouncements to sell advertising space to the lucky winners.
In any case, as I got older (and phenomenally grumpier) I had less and less interest in this year’s $400 pair of must-have denim pants or who indeed makes the chai latte to end all chi lattes. Los Angeles focuses heavily on trendy hipster areas of town such as Silver Lake, Larchmont, Venice, Sawtelle, Westwood, Pasadena, and the like, neighborhoods which as I reached middle age I seldomly visited. The domiciles and destinations for scruffy beach bums like me is studiously ignored, except for the couple of times each year when the magazine reviews a new en vogue restaurant in Manhattan Beach run by a celebrity chef and featuring locally-sourced menu items and a three-course deal with wine which will set you back a mere $149 per person. And the politics of the magazine as you can well guess are California comfy-left, with approving write-ups of art galleries hosting $1000 ticket fundraisers for progressive candidates who promise to do something about homelessness. Because the magazine went from slightly amusing to incessantly annoying — remarkably at the exact time that I went from passably tolerant to terminally grouchy — I decided not to renew my subscription even though it was only setting me back something like $15 per year.
But I remain on their daily email list, so I can continue to be updated on the new downtown condos with panoramic views which are an absolute steal at $1.325 million for two bedrooms and the emergence of the Asian lesbian baking community and their fusion muffins which incorporate lychee and rice. This ensures that I can always carry my end of the conversation those two times a year when I find myself standing in line to get some free trade Bolivian coffee with a cube of Pakistani sugar and a dollop of authentic Kenyan gnu’s milk at a food truck parked on La Brea. So I was pretty excited that today the magazine reported back to me on their movie reviewer’s trip to the oh-so-important Sundance Film Festival. It’s important to know which touching coming-of-age film about a transgendered Inuit teen struggling to overcome the effects of colonialism and unbridled capitalism while striving to master (oh, that’s a problematic word!) the fine art of toothpick sculpture is the one to crowd into an arthouse theater on Santa Monica Boulevard to see within two days after it opens. This sort of intel is exactly why I choose to continue to receive the magazine’s daily briefing.
So imagine my surprise when the lucky reviewer who got to spend a fun weekend at the festival hobnobbing (virtually of course; no expense account dinners at Riverhorse on Main for you!) with Hollywood royalty returned from his weekend on Zoom and declared that (emphasis added) “[T]he documentaries are far more dramatic than the actual dramas. Scripted films I’ve seen are so agenda-laden that with few exceptions, they trundle weightily to obvious and boring conclusions.” I mean, goodness: what’s the point of making a Hollywood movie these days unless you can take a mighty #resistance thwack at Trump, whiteness, capitalism (at least the kind that doesn’t involve the arts), flyover country, religious belief (and here we really mean Evangelical Christianity, traditional Catholicism, and Orthodox Judaism), law enforcement, the military (newly-minted Admirals excepted), and in general anything that even hints at an America which existed before the first Baby Boomer picked up a book by Michael Foucault? The reviewer, Allen Salkin, declares that too many of this year’s Sundance dramas “seemed like high-falutin’ versions of Lifetime movies from the 1990s,” and provides brief encapsulations of some of the movies he watched over the weekend. You can read his own words on the website, but allow me the indulgence of providing my own interpretation of what’s in store for the woke film fan:
Watcher – Cute young feminist moves into apartment and is haunted by an unseen stalker (which represents Donald Trump and Samuel Alito), but her cis-male partner and other representatives of the rape-culture patriarchy (i.e., red state voters) gaslight her by telling her she is imagining it.
God’s Country – Rural Colorado college professor Thandie Newton yasssss queeeeens her way through whooping ass on a couple of mouth-breathing white rednecks with guns who are illegally hunting on her property, a metaphor for trying to remove Critical Race Theory from kindergarten instruction.
Resurrection – Hip, urban, professional Rebecca Hall has it all together and is really crushing it, until creepy ex-boyfriend Tim Roth, who probably listens to Joe Rogan’s podcast, shows up and brings with him some bad vibes from her past. One reviewer reports that the film features a nearly ten-minute monologue from Ms. Hall, so if you go and see it at least you will know there is a good point at which to take a bathroom break and buy a box of Junior Mints.
Call Jane – An incredibly Strong! and Brave! movie about pioneering female entrepreneurs of the 1960s running an illegal abortion clinic, whose vital life-denying business was disrupted by that goddamned Roe decision which put conglomerates like Planned Parenthood in charge of this lucrative industry. Hopefully the new Supreme Court with Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett can once again provide opportunities for small businesses to make a dishonest living in back alleys.
When You Finish Saving the World – The title and the fact that it stars Julianne Moore really tells you all you need to know, doesn’t it? But here’s a short synopsis which I gleaned from a quick glance at YouTube: gawky white teen boy tries to win the heart of a woke black (or at the very least bi-racial) teen girl by emulating her progressive pretensions. Maybe the clever title indicates that it is a wry look at youthful self-righteousness, but I kind of doubt it.
Anyway, this is apparently what we have in store for us in 2022. It’s almost enough to make you long for the latest Marvel Comics extravaganza or an unwanted remake by current Saturday Night Live cast members of a beloved 1980s comedy. I don’t think I’ll need to devote a great deal of my household budget to movie tickets for the next nine or ten months.