Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie


Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is basically the equivalent to what fanboys get all hyped up about with Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Star Trek, et al. This is a film for lovers of the 24 year old new-classic British television series and it delivers in spades of hilarity. Unlike crabby, never-satisfied fanboys, I have been a huge fan of this show since I was 14 and this adaptation did not ‘ruin my childhood’. The film is a loving callback to past storylines and propels our oddly-endearing, ridiculous fashion disaster duo on an adventure seeking the glamorous life.

The film has not changed the sheer heights of bad behavior and cluelessness which Edina Monsoon, PR guru(Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone(Joanna Lumley), best friend forever to Eddy, exhibit. No one falls out of a car or runs into a wall as well as this couple of expert comedy actresses. If the film had been only Pats and Eddy snorting coke, taking pills, drinking booze and smoking excessively, I would have been more than satisfied. Lucky there is a delightful scene just like I described, with some deep philosophical pot-talk, all while the pair are wearing onesie pajamas. Nearly every scene had me smiling from ear to ear because of how well the main actresses inhabit their characters, as well as the massive amount of callbacks.

Almost every character who was on the tv show is in the film; it’s a bonanza of cameos. Both character actors and celebrities alike pop up constantly, giving the film a touch of nostalgia and a nice tribute to past stories. One brief standout character actor moment that banged home the intense satire of this project was that of Mo Gaffney’s daffy, beyond belief Bo. Bo is the current wife of Eddy’s ex-husband and always has grandly ludicrous ideas about her life. Bo is now sporting an afro, wearing large elephant jewelry and professes that she is Black, that we are all from Africa anthropologically, despite being a hyper-white woman. A perfect jab at Rachel Dolezal, the peculiar, massively-misguided White woman who lied about being Black to gain a top spot in the NAACP. When a person acts like an ass in public, Ab Fab will make a tasty joke out of their idiocy.

Allusions to the television program may lead this film to be less resonant for newcomers than for the initiated. Subtle call backs include Eddy’s home being overtly decadent, but decorated with a massive Che Guevara print to show her supposed political liberalism. Bubble(Jane Horracks) the assistant is still as goofy and into carnival-esque costumes as before. Eddy continues to use people as fashion accessories, like her granddaughter Lola(Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) taking the place of Eddy’s conservative frumpy daughter Saffy(Julia Sawalha). Saffy does get one point of understanding from an unlikely crowd, yet continues to act as the mother-figure to her childish mother.  Patsy has one of the funniest callbacks, to a time of her life in the 1970s, which propels a major plot point to my great delight.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie serves to give the loyal audience and the beloved characters space for a romp we’ve been wanting for years. Patsy and Eddy are frivolous, fashion-obsessed, money-seeking women who are not overtly likeable yet are given endearing qualities to balance out their superficiality. There are a few points of reflection on their lifestyle and the fact that they are ‘women of a certain age’ who do not want to stop the party, as society tells older women to do. In all, this film is a love letter to strong female friendships, though dysfunctional, which are not present enough in general media. Patsy and Eddy are wackos whose lifelong friendship has made their lives more audacious than if they had settled down. Raise a glass of  Bolly to the women of Ab Fab, have a little nibble, put on your Pop-Specs; you’re in for a treat.

A Collection of My Outside Work

I have had the luck to share my writing on other film sites I admire over the years. It’s always a pleasure to be invited to collaborate. The following is a list of essays I’ve written. Thank you for reading and enjoy!


From Pinnland Empire 

Misunderstood Masterpiece: Return to Oz

Misunderstood Masterpiece: Marie Antoinette

Two by Wim Wenders: Pina and Wings of Desire 

Introduction to The Cinema of Todd Solondz

A Movie for Christmas: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

A Movie for Christmas: Go


From Cut Print Film

The Leftovers: Season One

The Leftovers: Season Two, Episode One ‘Axis Mundi’

Sunshine Superman

Lucky Stiff

Set Fire to the Stars



From The Pink Smoke

Five From the Fire


From Wrong Reel

DiG! podcast

Wagner’s Dream


Originally published in 2013

Wagner’s Dream (2012) directed by Susan Froemke documents the most recent production of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle by the Metropolitan Opera.  If one has even a passing familiarity to opera, the idea that a new staging of the Ring Cycle would be bombastic is obvious, but this film illustrates how much more grandiose this version is.  To be plain, this production could have been the equivalent disaster that the Broadway play, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark became.  How could an opera that is over 140 years old be a potential debacle? The documentary illustrates this fact clearly, to the extent that an opera novice will be excited and entertained by the production’s trials and triumphs.

The ambition of Wagner’s Ring Cycle cannot be understated, both historically and for present performances.  The composer never realized his complete vision for this massive piece; he passed away having only produced it once.  Any production changes, which Wagner hinted at making, have to be imagined by subsequent companies.  The Metropolitan Opera’s idea to bring Wagner’s dream vision to light was to contract French-Canadian stage producer Robert Lepage to oversee the massive undertaking. Lepage and his team aimed to build one set that would be used for the entire 16 hour Ring Cycle; a 90,000 lb. computerized and manually operated set dubbed “The Machine”.

What unfolds through the course of Wagner’s Dream are the trials that the Met encounters using “The Machine”, along with regular theatrical problems, like losing a conductor during the run and bringing in a new Siegfried a few weeks before opening.  It is fascinating watching the stage crew deal with the unruly, gargantuan set and the frustrations this puts upon the rest of the company.  The opera house had to be reinforced or the set may have collapsed the floor.  The singers, though accustomed to expressive acting in Wagnerian operas, are highly challenged by the set and have understandable arguments against even stepping foot on it.  At one point a Rheinmaiden is nearly crushed when the set moves into position and she is not correctly hidden in a crevice.  Having to navigate such a daunting set, as well as having to perform in one of the most difficult operas ever written, illustrates how utterly amazing the company is as a whole.


The documentary is more an ode to theatrical innovation and efficient teamwork, than a tale about the Ring Cycle.  Audience members are interviewed throughout the film about their impressions of the newly imagined pieces. The reactions range from the upset traditionalist to the young “hip” opera-goer who doesn’t mind the deviation in set design.  Wagner’s Dream is swift in its treatment of the operas; the labyrinthine story is quickly explained with a few sentences.  The real action of this film derives from the overhanging audacious artistic vision of Wagner, Mr. Lepage and his team’s engineering feats and the enthusiasm of the crew and cast.  The sheer joy, energy and expertise which the Metropolitan Opera Company exudes, fills this documentary with a universal quality.  Opera is an unfamiliar art form for many; the backstage view presented helps to normalize and bring down to human scale the audacious task they hope to accomplish.

Author’s Note: I had the good fortune to procure one of the few remaining tickets for the May 11, 2013 performance of Gotterdammerung; the final performance of the entire production.  The words epic, entrancing spectacle do not even get close to describing how amazing this opera was.  “The Machine” is terrifying; it creaks and swings about wildly(there was even a short techincal stoppage during the first intermission due to it malfunctioning). The orchestra kicks complete ass; 6 harps! SIX!!  I spent Act 3 sobbing because it was so mind-blowingly beautiful.  Due to this being the very last performance, the stage crew took a bow.  “The Machine” lifted up and 50 or more stagehands emerged and started waving at the audience. They got the largest ovation of the day and damn, did they deserve it. I cried and cheered along with everyone else.  An amazing life experience; transcendent.


Quick Take: Horace and Pete: Episode 1

“All are punish’d” – Prince Escalus

from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare


Louis CK’s newest drama Horace and Pete, tinged with a few laughs, serves as a vehicle to take America to task. No group is excluded from the blame of where we are presently situated; the elderly, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millenials are equally shown in their most harsh and unflattering light. The tropes of those groups are well-examined and illustrate the quesy unease and fracturing of our warped idea of America. The way in which CK expounds on the entropy of a nation which holds itself in the highest egocentric regard is through a day at a hundred year old bar in Brooklyn, NY. Utilizing a stage play atmosphere with traditional sitcom camera work, this episode expresses the multitude of caustic issues which are crippling Americans on micro and macro levels. Featured players in this episode include Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Edie Falco, Jessica Lange, Steven Wright, Aidy Bryant, Nick di Paolo and Kurt Metzger to name only a few of this intense cast. Issues ranging from the chaos of the Republican presidential debates, the injurious blood-sucking of the medical insurance cabal, the scars of generations of families repeating abuse and abandonment, are all laid bare on the table with no cushion. To speak in more detail would diminish the utter surprise and bewilderment which the episode produces. This is a series which America needs, even if it hurts to observe and digest the truth.

Watch Horace and Pete through Louis CK’s website. Only $5; a bargain if there ever was one.

Old (Film) School: Androids: Death Watch, Blade Runner, & Alien: Resurrection

Originally written on April 26, 2001



The technology of modern sci-fi films incorporates the need in humans to become more perfect. Androids and robots represent the perfect strength and dexterity that humans wish to gain. The artifice of the android also reveals the fear in humans of making a technology that is better than we could ever be.  Modern sci-fi films illustrate through artifice the weakness of humans and the superiority of the machine.

In the film Death Watch(1980), Roddy is a man who is equipped with cameras in his eyes so he can film anything he watches. Roddy is not technically an android but does possess machine parts that make him more powerful. Roddy’s camera eyes give him the advantage over unenhanced artists because he simply looks and shoots. Roddy is not encumbered by bulky cameras or equipment and is therefore superior to other humans in this respect.

The downside of Roddy’s camera is that it makes him less human. Roddy cannot be in darkness or his camera eyes will fail. To make sure his eyes don’t fail, Roddy takes a lot of amphetamines and learns to sleep with his eyes open. The inability to sleep properly makes Roddy vulnerable. Consequently, Roddy’s camera eyes become a liability as they finally render him blind. Roddy finds that technology can make a better human, but only up to a point. He realizes that spectacular technology does not guarantee human betterment, but instead human misery.

The replicants in Blade Runner(1982) represent both the fear and hope that humans hold about technology. All of the Nexus 6 models encompass incredible strength and intelligence. Their only downfall is their “accelerated decrepitude”. Other than the short life span, the replicants are built better and function better than human beings. This fact causes humans to fear them unless they are in the service of humans.

Roy Baty is the Ubermensch of the group of replicants. He embodies all the wondrous qualities of the artificial. Roy is incredibly strong, he is witty and clever, and he has the capacity to feel real emotions. Of all the characters in Blade Runner, Roy is the most human while obviously not being human. Roy feels deeply about the plight of his replicant friends and wants to help them live longer. When he realizes that is not going to happen, he kills Tyrell in a fit of passionate rage. Tyrell is obstensively Roy’s father and realizing that one’s own father cannot help is a huge blow to Roy. Though Roy’s killing of Tyrell is brutal, this act shows that he understands the finality of his situation and those of his friends.

Roy also has the capacity for forgiveness, which is a very human virtue. When he battles Deckard in the hotel he is ruthless up to a point. Yet Roy finally saves Deckard by pulling him up to the roof. The act of saving Deckard gives Roy a humanity that is lacking in the humans around him. The humans want only to kill the replicants who escaped to Earth, yet Roy saves a human anyway. It is heartening to see that a replicant can be compassionate as well as vicious.

The replicants are actually just like humans, except for the fact that they are stronger, smarter and live for less time. This is what scares humans about replicants; that they have the capacity to become so much like us, yet not at all like us. The superiority of technology over biology is probably why humans don’t want replicants on Earth. The replicants are a constant reminder that technology created by humans can produce advanced forms of artificial life but cannot be applied to humans. Humans want all of the special attributes that replicants possess, but they do not want to be artificial. It seems as if humans created a superior breed and then started to resent it. Through the replicants humans finally understood the fragility of biological life and this upset them greatly.

The android Call from Alien: Resurrection(1997) is an interesting example of technology. Call is very unassuming and does not reveal her true self until very far into the film. Call is supposedly programmed to care about people and to help them defeat the dreaded aliens. Ripley is amused by this fact because it seems as if the only one who cares about preserving life on Earth is a robot. All of the other people just care about saving themselves and getting off the ship, with fairly little concern about the aliens invading Earth. Even Ripley, who knows how horrible the aliens are, is somewhat sympathetic towards them.

Call is crushed when her companions find out she is a robot. Many of them make disparaging comments about her; one even calls her a toaster. Even in the far progressed future, robots are a novelty to humans. They are seen as freaks and are treated as such. This is why Call hid her real identity; hoping to be judged by her own merits, not by the fact that she was a robot. Yet in the end, Call reluctantly gave into her nature and used her wiring to save everyone.

The human experience is one of possessing a natural body and living in an artificial world. The androids and robots in sci-fi films represent this idea. We live in a world bombarded with technology and media. There is no place to hide from the mechanization of life. The humans best efforts to combat technology and to return to nature are futile, as this world is one of artifice. There is a constant philosophical question in the human mind as to what is real and what is produced. Androids are a proxy to understanding this question.

Technology is a perplexing issue for humans in sci-fi as well as in real life. In the book Screening Space author Vivian Sobchack observes that, “Immersed in media experience, conscious of mediated experience, we no longer experience any realm of human existence as unmediated, immediate “natural”.” (Sobchack, 237). This idea is applied very well to sci-fi films. In Blade Runner it is incredibly hard to differentiate between the human and the artificial. The technology produced in replicants is so human-like that a precise machine must be used to tell a human from a replicant. This is the human fear of technology; that we no longer have the ability to determine what is natural because there is no longer anything natural left in the world.

Sci-fi films represent technology as both beneficial and detrimental. Androids are extraordinary because they were made from humans to be so perfect. Their strength and perfection is a credit to our knowledge of science and its application. Androids also frighten people because they are so perfect that humans know they cannot live up to that level of engineered perfection. In essence, humans are afraid of anything that is different from themselves, of the Other. Humans attack difference due to a mixture of jealousy and ignorance. The ingrained human instinct to destroy Otherness is why humans are fearful of androids and artificial life in its varying forms.

 Works Cited

Sobchack, Vivian. (1987). Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.



Louie: ‘Cop Story’ Season 5, Episode 3


Cop Story is a devastating episode in the continuing excellence of the quasi-comedic television show Louie on FX. Having watched the entirety of this program’s run, I have come to the conclusion that it is one of the most difficult, intelligent, surreal tv shows to be produced in recent broadcast history. Louis C.K. is a genius for presenting this tv show as a comedy, when it is only funny half of the time. For example, the beginning of Cop Story is a tense conversation between Louie and the young female shopkeeper of a kitchen supply store. Louie wants to buy an expensive cooper pot and is rebuffed repeatedly by the shopkeeper in his efforts to do so. She lays her logic down hard on why she won’t allow him to buy a professional-grade copper pot; suggesting that he should visit William-Sonoma if he wants to have his ego stroked, as he will never be a real chef like her younger clientele.The shopkeeper is brutal in her assessment of Louie and his unease around young people and even contends that everyone younger than him is smarter than he could ever hope to be. Their conversation is uncomfortable and a little too real. This is not a conversation that would transpire in real life. A shopkeeper might think a customer is a jerk, yet would not out-right say it to their face. The confrontational conversation is Louie’s projection of his hatred of himself. Due to C.K. implementing a slipping, surreal reality into the show’s structure, a conversation like this will occur to remind Louie of his own obsolescence.

The rest of the episode revolves around an awkward reunion with an old acquaintance of Louie’s.  Louie runs into Lenny(Michael Rapaport) while walking past him on the street. Lenny summons Louie from a NYPD cop car and pretends to frisk him. It is obvious from the start that Lenny is overjoyed to see Louie, as he jokes around with him and demands his phone number so that they can hang out and catch up. Louie’s expression is of the thinly-veiled realization that he wishes he had walked down a different block and not run into Lenny. It is revealed that Lenny was Louie’s sister’s boyfriend long ago and though Lenny still wants to be friends with Louie, despite the breakup, Louie is reluctant. Regardless, Louie agrees to attend a Knicks game with Lenny, to basically fulfill his hanging-out requirement and then never see Lenny again.

When Lenny arrives at Louie’s apartment to take him to the basketball game, he brandishes his cop gun, using it as a toy. Louie is very unnerved by Lenny waving around his pistol, yet brushes off his childish, irresponsible behavior so they he can just get the night over with. As the pair walk to MSG to see the game, Lenny starts talking and never stops. He’s constantly talking about himself loudly, bringing up old memories which make Louie aggravated, and acts as a gigantic, pushy buffoon. Lenny is a veritable stream of talking; Louie hardly gets a word in edgewise and finally calls Lenny out about his embarrassing behavior and tries to go home early. Then Lenny’s world collapses; he realizes that he has lost his service pistol at some point during the evening and he completely implodes.

He frantically starts freaking out at Louie, raving that he cannot lose his gun. His life will be over, as losing a service pistol is one of the only ways that a cop can be fired. Without his gun, and the identity of a cop which it affords, Lenny is nothing and he is sickeningly aware of that. He knows that he is an annoying, brutish person; one who people actively avoid. Lenny doesn’t want to be a loser, so at least the profession of a cop can give him an identity; if his gun is lost, he will be too. The way in which Lenny rips apart Louie’s apartment to locate the gun and then starts screaming, crying and hitting himself, sobbing that his is stupid, is agonizing. If Lenny did have his pistol at that very moment of ultimate depression, he would have put it to his temple.  Realizing this terrifying fact, Louie commands Lenny to stay put and he will fix things.

The conclusion of this episode shows Louie retracing his steps and miraculously finding the gun undisturbed on the sidewalk. A little comic relief is employed in this section, as Louie awkwardly tries to conceal the gun and even drops it in front of a crowd of cops who luckily do not notice it. When Louie returns to his apartment, he shows Lenny he has found the gun and that all is not lost.  Lenny then tackles Louie into a hug and crushes him to the floor sobbing with relief. Louie cradles Lenny the broken man-child and strokes his back lightly with the gun still in his hand. This final image is highly affecting as the hug is an apology to Lenny; a way to make him feel there can be solace. The aptitude with which C.K. can cut to the bone of human frailty and also serve up a tender closure is the hallmark of this superior program. Louie is not laugh-out-loud funny, it is better than that. This episode is a fine illustration that surrealism employed in comedy can lay bare our most overwhelming feelings of failure and help us explore our hidden inner lives.

Quick Take: In the Turn


In the north of Canada lives a little girl named Crystal who loves playing sports, as most children do. Despite Crystal’s enthusiasm for athletics, she is denied a place to play, simply due to biology and her school’s antiquatedly rigid definition of gender. In the Turn, directed by Erica Tremblay, is a documentary which marks Crystal’s challenging journey growing up as a transgendered girl, along with the heartening stories of a league of transgendered people who find community, acceptance and the chance to kick-ass through the sport of roller derby. The athletes profiled offer contrasting perspectives on how queer people live out their lives in a world dominated by cisgendered culture. The results are often grim, as in the case of Crystal’s struggles being accepted by her peers and how this affects her youthful worldview grievously. In whole, the emboldened spirit and optimism of the roller derby players and their encouragement of Crystal’s desire to compete are truly joyful. The humour and happiness of the transgendered athletes makes In the Turn a welcome confident picture that life can be normal for all, even when the stakes are stacked so high against a person at life’s outset. As one roller derby player remarks, “There’s a boring, boring life at the end of the rainbow.” This heartwarming documentary makes one believe this will be the future for Crystal and other kids like her; one of acceptance, compassion, love and of course, combative, adrenaline-inducing sports.