Film Review: Babyteeth

babyteethThe plot of Shannon Murphy’s debut dramatic feature, Babyteeth is familiar: A spirited teen is diagnosed with terminal cancer and then falls in love with an eccentric boy who renews her lust for life or whatever, while her dysfunctional parents look on disapprovingly. But Murphy’s film, based on the hit play by Rita Kalnejais, is basically the antithesis of melodramatic schmaltz like A Walk to Remember or The Fault in Our Stars.

Eliza Scanlen (Sharp Objects, Little Women), utilizes her resume to play the terminally-ill daughter of Henry (Ben Mendelsohn, Captain Marvel, Rogue One), a psychiatrist and Anna (Essie Davis, Game of Thrones), a former piano prodigy. The story unfolds in the non-postcard parts of Sydney, Australia. A hand-held camera lends a home movie vibe to the proceedings (if your home movies were shot by a professional DP).

The film opens with a tooth falling into a glass. We eventually learn that it belongs to a fifteen-year-old girl named Milla Finlay. She has a bleak cancer prognosis and a baby tooth that’s holding on for dear life. Her middle-class life has been rather uneventful so far and now it’s almost over. Perhaps that’s what’s she’s contemplating en route to school one morning, when a hot young vagrant named Moses (Toby Wallace, Romper Stomper mini-series), nearly knocks her into an oncoming train. He sports a face tattoo and a haircut that looks like it was done by a toddler. He’s what the pop artist Two Thangs would call a “Dirtbag Pinup.” When Milla’s nose starts bleeding, Moses removes his shirt, pulls her into his lap, and places it oppressively over her nose and mouth. Afterward, he asks her for money. Milla is immediately smitten…

Read the rest on Hammer to Nail!

Paid in Puke S3E2: Superstar

superstar imageOn today’s episode, we get in touch with our inner Superstar with Bruce McCulloch’s 1999 comedy staring Molly Shannon as Mary Katherine Gallagher!

It’s a celebration of horny misfits! It’s also Tangent City as we get into what happened with the Switched at Birth families and try to explain Armageddon and Tom Green to modern audiences.

Our Lunchtime Poll is best expressed in a monologue from our favorite made for TV movies.

Film Review: The Third Strike

3rd strike

The American judicial system has long exemplified Orwellian justice. Some animals are more equal than others. To wit, everyone is entitled to representation and a jury of their peers but those who can afford better lawyers are more likely to receive a verdict in their favor. The Three Strikes law, enacted in 1994, was allegedly designed to manage repeat offenders of “serious crimes”. The problem is that at the time, narcotics possession (however minimal) was considered equivalent to armed robbery and murder. That’s how Edward Douglas, a family man who had never been to jail, ended up with a life sentence. His story is par for the course.

Nicole Jones’ debut feature documentary, The Third Strike, is a must-see film that brings to light the absolute miscarriage of justice that is the Three Strikes law. It follows the Decarceration Collective, a team of superhero lawyers who work pro-bono to overturn the sentences of the law’s victims. Their motto is to be “the best lawyers that money cannot buy”. Federal Defense Attorney Miangel (Pronounced “My Angel”, and she is just that to her clients) Cody leads this real-life Justice League, working tirelessly to repair the many lives damaged by Three Strikes. And it’s not just the incarcerated who are affected. There’s a ripple effect that spreads through their families and the generations that follow.

The War on Drugs was disastrous for myriad reasons, but the most egregious effect was that it unfairly and disproportionately targeted low-income black men and led to a generation of families growing up with an incarcerated parent. These families can thank Bill Clinton and Joe Biden for “getting tough on crime” at the expense of their lives. Because it meant a life behind bars, many low-income defendants would enter pleas instead of going to trial. Their fates were at the whims of whatever judge they ended up with, instead of a jury of their peers.

Ironically, these same people can, in part, thank Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump for righting these wrongs. Kardashian became a celebrity spokesperson for the First Step Act of 2019, along with Senator Cory Booker. Trump signed the bill, which immediately resulted in the release 17 people. Jones captures Senator Cory Booker meeting with Douglas after his release. The Decarceration team graciously roll their eyes at the celebs taking credit. After all, they did most of the leg work. But they are nonetheless thrilled with the results.

Jones introduces us to each of the Wonder Women in the Collective, including attorneys Cody, Amanda Bash and LaSheda Brooks as well as Community Architect Bella Bahhs, who does a fantastic job of iterating how the black community has been devastated by Three Strikes. They are parents, brothers, sisters, artists, workers, scholars, and partners. Bahhs explains that the Three Strikes Law tried to erase their multitudes and punish people for the circumstances that drove them to make mistakes. “You don’t get to put someone in jail for life without taking who they are into account,” says Bahhs. She also points out that for many of the Collective’s clients, the first system that paid any attention to them was the criminal justice system. If that’s a surprise to you, sit with it for a minute. It’s a rude awakening but that’s precisely what this country needs right now.

For Brooks, the fight is personal. During a particularly emotional scene in the film, she reveals that she became a lawyer specifically to fight Three Strikes and bring her father home. She doesn’t regret the long road she’s taken but a part of her mourns the life she would have had growing up with her father at home. She tearfully recalls all-nighters in law school where she used the image of her dad rotting in a cage as motivation to drink more coffee and carry on. She may have changed her father’s circumstances, but the psychological toll on the whole family is everlasting.

Another emotional story line follows Alton Mills, a man who served 22 out of 23 years for possession of marijuana before Obama commuted his sentence in 2015. All told, Jones profiles 5 of the 33 people the Decarceration Collective has managed to free as of 2019.

Jones hits it out of the park with her debut, keeping it short and sweet. It’s informative, easy to follow, and packs a hell of an emotional punch. She expertly intersperses facts and history with the stories of the families affected (negatively) by Three Strikes and (positively) by the Collective. The Third Strike adopts the tone of Jones’ subjects – burdened but optimistic. The Collective works tirelessly, but they take time out to celebrate the victories. There’s so much yet to be done but they don’t ever lose sight of the prize, which is reuniting families and shedding light on the people rendered invisible by the system that has worked against them since inception.

Paid in Puke S3E1: Terms of Endearment

TermsofEndearment-Watching-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600-v4On the series three premiere, we celebrate Mother’s Day with some choice words for James L. Brooks’ 1983 drama, Terms of Endearment, starring Deborah Winger and Shirley MacLaine. It’s chock full of Hot Probs, but there are also many, MANY hard relate moments for all of us.

We get also really person in the Lunchtime Poll when we reveal which TV/Film moms most closely resemble our own matriarchs.

Editor’s Note: Series 3 of Paid in Puke is recorded in quarantine via Zoom so our sound quality has taken a slight dip. Our apologies. But the show must go on!