Paid in Puke S5E6: Hard Candy

The second half of Series 5 kicks off with Peter Jackson’s 1994 crime drama, Heavenly Creatures, which introduced two phenomenal actors at once: Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey. It’s based on the true story of two mid-century teenagers in New Zealand (Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme) who, lost in their own an imaginary world, enact a murderous plot to stay together against their parents’ wishes.

It’s a very special episode-long Keggers with Kids segment, as we’re joined by 14-year-old Logan G, who shares their masterful powers of perception with us on the nature of the girls’ friendship and who is really “to blame” in this terrible case that rocked a nation.

On the Lunchtime Poll, we talk about Honora almost skipping dessert before she’s “moidered”, and we share what we hope we would have done if we had no tomorrow.

Listen here!

Film Review: This is Not a War Story

There’s a reason that Hollywood movies about the U.S. military can feel like propaganda. It’s because the Department of Defense routinely works with filmmakers to control how they’re depicted on screen. According to Wikipedia, “Directors looking to borrow Army material for their movies need to apply to the DoD, and submit their scripts for vetting. Ultimately, the DoD has a say in virtually every U.S.-made movie that use military resources in their production.” Talia Lugacy’s bold film, This is Not a War Story, points a middle finger at what a character in the film calls, “that ‘good war’ bullshit”. 

Lugacy writes, directs, and stars in this effective verité-style drama about the insidiousness of the United States military and the myriad ways in which society fail veterans. Rosario Dawson executive produces Lugacy’s sophomore feature, which lays waste to Hollywood films like Saving Private Ryan and The Hurt Locker for glorifying war and soldiers without telling the whole story. It’s not enough that we dole out painkillers for their injuries and therapy for their PTSD. The civilians who thank vets for their service don’t stop to think what they might be thanking these people for. 

Lugacy plays Isabelle, a marine with a limp and an estranged mother (Frances Fisher) to show for her service. She struggles every day with physical and mental anguish. Her brother blames her for her problems. She needs direction and empathy and she is getting none of that from her family. Fortunately, she finds a place to call home in the form of a group of artistic vets who turn their uniforms into paper and then use that paper to work through their issues. Some write poetry, some draw or paint. Some turn them into mixed media sculptures using other war souvenirs. Lugacy populates her film with real vets who each get a chance to tell their story and share their art on screen. It was produced over three years as an ongoing collaboration with the thriving community of veteran artists and papermakers. 

Isabelle is immediately draw to Will (Sam Adagoke), a vet around her own age who recently lost a friend and fellow vet to suicide. Isabelle comes at Will with the intensity of Deadwood’s Calamity Jane, swearing up a storm, and wearing her big, raw heart on her sleeve. Will’s grief is more internal. He’s trying to find peace which at first prompts him to keep his distance from Isabelle. He’d been a mentor to Tim, and so he partly blames himself for his friend’s death. Will doubts his ability to help another lost soul. 

Will confesses to Isabelle that he enjoys the paper-making process because it’s forgiving – if you mess up, you can always start over. It’s clear that Will doesn’t feel forgiven for much in his life. Isabelle and Will both perk up when making the paper. The tactile process is soothing to them, and being around other vets is validating, even when they’re not sharing their stories. Just knowing that they’re in a room full of people who are broken in a similar way is a kind of homecoming that they can’t experience in the rest of the world.  

Exacerbated by the rejection of her dying mother, Isabelle relentlessly pursues Will’s friendship, following him from Brooklyn to a remote cabin upstate. There, they talk through their struggles, and find common ground. They hike through the woods and exorcise their demons around a campfire. 

This is Not a War Story brings us the horrors of war without having to see the war itself. There are no flashback scenes. No shots of our protagonists sobbing over the bodies of their dead friends. Lugacy and Adagoke’s haunted performances convey that pain effectively enough. In a particularly crushing monologue, Will imagines confronting a well-meaning civilian about what they’re really thanking him for. Is it “for blowing up a school or a hospital?” The DoD would likely distance itself from a film that seeks to humanize the enemy or depict soldiers as pawns in the oil business. Will puts it beautifully when he says, “The American Dream is a nightmare for the rest of the world.” 

The film also takes the opportunity to highlight other injustices brought on by capitalism and systematic racism. The line “poverty is the new slavery” really resonates in a time when the pandemic serves to further widen the class divide, as does Will’s observation that you would never find an army recruiter on the upper west side. Tim overdoses on a crowded subway car because no one will look at him long enough to see that he is dying.

The film’s opening follows Tim up and down the line, popping pills and napping on a bench as other passengers keep their distance. The song “Luang Prabang” by Dave Van Ronk plays like an internal monologue:

“And now the boys all envy me.
I fought for Christian Democracy
With nothing but air where my balls used to be
Now I’m a fucking hero.

In Luang Prabang there is a spot
Where the corpses of your brothers rot
And every corpse is a patriot
And every corpse is a hero.”

The film’s title could not be more apt. A war story glorifies battle and makes the protagonist a hero. But these soldiers don’t feel like heroes. They feel broken, cheated, used, and forgotten. What good is being a hero when you’re dead or wish you were? A war story paints a picture of bad guys vs. good guys. It’s a fabrication. This is not a war story because it tells the truth. Fuck that “good war” bullshit.

Film Review: Lucky (2020)

Brea Grant (A Ghost Story) wrote and stars in Lucky, a horror allegory that breeds Kafka-esque mystery with the home invasion genre. Natasha Kermani (Imitation Girl) directs this gripping polemic, which somehow manages to be simultaneously overt and enigmatic. It is certainly an indictment of the way society normalizes violence against women and routinely puts the onus on the victim. It’s for sure a delightful skewering of the fecklessness of the police department. I want to believe that it’s also a scathing takedown of white feminism. But if it turns out that we’re meant to wholeheartedly sympathize with the boot-straps touting self-help author/protagonist, that would mean that Lucky suffers from a bit of a perspective problem. Sadly, it’s that lack of clarity that keeps Lucky from being a home run. Instead, it’s just a pretty good hit. 

The film opens on May (Grant) meeting with her agent (Leith M. Burke) about the failing sales of her book, “Go It Alone.” His voice falls on her muffled ears. She’s distracted and the news isn’t exactly good. In the parking garage, May notices that one of her fingernails is split and bloody. At home, she discovers a broken plate and shows her blasé husband, Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh), a comically large shard of glass that she found on the coffee table. He remains unmoved when May rouses him in the middle of the night to tell him there’s a masked man with a knife lurking in their backyard. Ted condescendingly responds that it’s only the man who comes every night and tries to kill them (more her than him, if he’s honest). They merely have to fight for their lives now. It’s not a big deal. Ted bludgeons the man with a golf club. The man bleeds out on their floor. May calls the cops, but Ted questions the point (fair). The body is already gone, just like it always is. The cops take some notes and tell May she’s lucky to have survived, BYEEEEEE. This is the most realistic thing that happens in the film…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Film Review: Clay’s Redemption

Director Carlos Boellinger calls Clay’s Redemption is an “unapologetic midnight movie”. Indeed, it would be fun to end a late night with this neon-drenched action noir fantasy. Shot in the darkest corners of London, Boellinger’s debut feature evokes Blade RunnerThe Matrix, and Cinemax’s American Gods with its lively tale of a Sleeve Walker (a sort of body-hopper) called Clay who helps a group of god-like immortals defeat a power-hungry demon. In exchange, he will earn his freedom and be settle into his final form. 

Boellinger wrote the dialogue-light script with Ivo Alexander. A couple of paragraphs on a black screen set the scene for the story. There are 9 living gods who are fighting amongst themselves for the all the power, Highlander-style. Meanwhile, a demon hunts them to steal their power for its own. Sleeve Walkers are convicts forced into indentured servitude, swapping bodies whenever their old ones wear out. When the story kicks off, we meet Clay (Akie Kotabe, TVs The Man in the High Castle), strolling around town in his latest body rental. A couple of stylish immortals hire him for one last job. If he can manage to transport an important woman to safety, he can earn his freedom in a body to call his own. Of course, the enemies are powerful and lurk around every corner, and everyone wants to get their hands on the mysteriously mute Maya (played by UK musician, Nuuxs). 

The best thing this film has going for it is the cinematography, also done by Boellinger. Clay’s Redemption was shot guerilla style around London, using only available light. This is clearly a low-budget project, but the seams are well hidden in the visuals. Boellinger has a real eye for composition akin to Nicolas Winding Refn’s stunning, but otherwise lackluster Only God Forgives. It doesn’t hurt that every performer looks like a supermodel. Among those who consulted on the look of the film were production designer Tony Noble (Moon) and designer Charli Cohen.

The lively score, composed by London-based duo TwoTwentyTwo, keeps the viewer engaged, but the film shines during the fight sequences. Kotabe steps out of his CIA IT guy 

pigeon hole, into that of formidable leading action man. All-in-all, Clay’s Redemption isn’t an instant classic, but it’s a good showcase for the talents of many involved. If you enjoy cool fight choreography in visually arresting locales, there’s something for you here. 

Paid in Puke S5E5: 9 to 5

On today’s episode, we’re working overtime for Colin Higgins’ 1980 comedy 9 to 5, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton. To help us discuss this timeless feminist farce, we’re joined by the delightfully effervescent Laura Laurence, an honorary Paid in Puke-ette who frequently gets name dropped on the pod! 

We touch on how little has changed in terms of workplace gender dynamics, why everyone is so mean to Doralee, and whether or not all children love Dabney Coleman.

On the Lunchtime Poll, we unsurprisingly all have stories about sexism in the workplace!

PiP goes on mid-season hiatus for a couple of weeks. We’ll be back toward the end of March with the second half of Series 5. In the meantime, don’t work too hard!

Paid in Puke S5E4: Blue Valentine

On today’s belated Valentine’s Day episode, we’re getting dark with Derek Cianfrance’s 2010 anti-romantic drama, Blue Valentine, starring Michelle Williams. Cianfrance wrote this film as a way to process his parents’ divorce when he was twenty years old. As bleak as it is, this film promotes two healthy things that are rife with stigma: abortions and divorce. We also touch on the very real emotions Williams brought to the role, the difficulties of changing tax brackets for the better, and how Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” is actually a rose-colored abusive relationship. The tree was NOT happy.

PS: Get your “The tree was not happy” merch here!

Paid in Puke S5E3: Bridesmaids

On today’s episode, we’re bonding over Paul Feig’s 2011 comedy, Bridesmaids, starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, and Wendi McLendon-Covey. For a hard-R comedy, it sure has a lot of layers and nuance regarding the feminine experience. For us, it brings up everything from the pressure of wedding culture to pushy boyfriends with a stopover at body grooming stigma. We also pay tribute to our favorite Wiig SNL characters, and call bull on the notion of sacred orifices.

On the Lunchtime Poll, we talk about men we dated who wouldn’t be named in the credits of our lives.

Paid in Puke S5E2: Showgirls

On this episode, we’re keeping it sleazy with Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 accidental camp classic, Showgirls, starring Elizabeth Berkeley and Gina Gershon. This movie is quite figuratively one long Hot Prob with one or two Not Probs of note, contributed by the talented cast.

To get to the bottom of things, we’re joined by a very special guest: the oft-referenced Baxter BFF, Faye Hoerauf!

You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll flail! You’ll puke!

On the Lunchtime Poll, we discuss possible interpretations of the Doggy Chow scene and reveal weird things we ate as a kid.

Paid in Puke S5E1: Promising Young Woman

On our Series 5 premiere, we’re gaga for Emerald Fennell’s 2020 debut feature, Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan, Laverne Cox, Alison Brie, and Jennifer Coolidge.

This film blew us away with it’s stylized look, DEEP subtext, and pitch-perfect performance. So much so, that the episode is a little longer than usual, but we hope you’ll find it’s worth it. If you haven’t seen the film, please rectify that immediately and then come back and listen to this episode.

In Keggers with Kids, 13-year-old Logan joins us to give their youthful insight, and on the Lunchtime Poll, we reveal silly songs that are meaningful to us.

TRIGGER WARNING: This episode discussed sexual assault and rape culture at length.

Film Review: Busman’s Holiday

Busman’s Holiday

A “Busman’s Holiday” refers to spending one’s vacation days much the same as you do your vocation days (i.e. a lifeguard relaxing at the beach). That’s not exactly what’s happening in Austin Smithard’s sophomore narrative feature. But when retired NYC cop Michael Busman (Jamie McShane) has no reason to decline a free trip around the world in pursuit of a missing teenaged relation, it’s not long before he finds himself outside of both his time zone and his comfort zone. Smithard’s script is an engaging existential meditation on life, love, travel, unfulfilled dreams, and forgiveness. But it doubles as a virtual field trip for anyone who has missed getting on a plane and waking up somewhere new.

Michael Busman doesn’t even want to even leave his bed let alone the country. But his cousin, Warren, knows that Michael doesn’t have much going on in his life he needs a big favor. Their distant uncle’s 19-year-old daughter, Suzi, didn’t return from her worldwide trek. Local law enforcement say they have no reason to suspect foul play, but the parents just know something is wrong. Busman is reticent to take on the search, but since his wife has recently split, he realizes it’s actually a good time for him to get out of Dodge. He soon finds himself in Ireland, interviewing his distraught relations, Brendan and Joan. Suzi sent postcards from every destination, but the last one they received says she was going to double back to some of the places she’d already visited. That was 2 months ago and they haven’t heard from her since. She’s not using the credit card, her phone is disconnected, and she’s gone dark on the socials. Michael decides that the best way to find her is to retrace her steps as closely as possible, which means traversing thousands of miles across the likes of Norway, India, Tanzania, and Italy.

This film unfolds like a TV drama bottle episode featuring a supporting character. Indeed, McShane is known for such roles on Bloodline, Bosch, and Southland. He plays Busman as a man in transition. He thought he had the rest of his life mapped out. But his wife’s departure threw his whole worldview into turmoil. While Michael is searching for a missing girl, he finds himself along the way. Cheesy though that sounds, it plays out subtly in the film. Michael begins to see the journey through Suzi’s eyes as he meets the people who will never forget her. Reluctant though he may be to move forward with the rest of his life, his search for Suzi forces him to let go of his past and embrace the present. Suzi narrates from some omniscient source that’s too detailed and confessional to be the brief postcards she sent to her parents. We never see how Busman reacts to her thoughts, though we can’t help but contrast her lust for life with his more jaded view.

Suzi’s spirit haunts every scene, though we barely get a glimpse of the girl herself. We can make out a shadow from the voiceover and the wistful looks in the eyes of those she touched in her travels. You never forget that this story is really about someone else. Someone we don’t see. Not even in photographs, really. She’s just vanished, but she’s memorable enough to have touched the lives of the people she met, even though they all seem certain their chapter in her life is over. Personally, I would have preferred to see the story from Suzi’s point of view, but I get that this was the story Smithard wanted to tell and the way that he felt he could tell it most effectively. It’s probably for the best when middle-aged men stick to what they know rather than try to speak for young women. I just get a little tired of stories about missing/dead girls as catalysts to male growth. Nothing against Smithard and his script. I can see this film, and especially McShane’s performance resonating with a demographic that more closely resembles Busman, rather than Suzi.

Shot on location before the world shut down, Busman’s Holiday offers a rare glimpse at some of the world’s most beautiful and remote places. It’s filmed like a travelogue with postcard-perfect cinematography. The really nice postcards that your mom would want to buy and frame. Smithard worked and studied alongside Steven Spielberg before making this film that he has deemed his cinematic swan song. As far as magnum opuses are concerned, this is a noble effort.