Thursday, February 18, 2016

Where to Invade Next and Zoolander 2

                         No Vaccinations Needed for These Travels           
                                  Reviews by Ken Burke
 I’m abandoning my usual What Happens, So What?, Bottom Line Final Comments review structure this time around because it doesn’t really work so well for documentaries such as Where to Invade Next nor do I really want to attempt a plot summary of something as intentionally-ludicrous as Zoolander 2 so these reviews will be more free-form than usual in hopes that will serve these films more appropriately (if not, I highly doubt the involved directors will even take notice).

Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                       Where to Invade Next (Michael Moore)
In this documentary Moore goes to several other countries to examine social practices that could benefit the U.S., ranging from longer paid vacations to better middle-class working conditions to truly rehabilitative approaches to prison to more active, accepted roles for women in all sectors of a nation; many of these ideas, though, originated in the U.S. anyway.
 Michael Moore is well known for taking aggressive, confrontational stances in his documentaries toward situations, policies, and people that he’s not in agreement with, from an admittedly-left-wing-viewpoint (a reason why I admire and support his work), leading to the kinds of challenges in his films from a liberal viewpoint that Donald Trump’s been bringing to the current Presidential campaign from his version of a conservative stance (even though his less-successful-GOP-rivals keep claiming he’s not truly conservative, but I’ll let them battle that out on their own because if Trump’s hogwash about Mexicans, Muslims, and anyone else he can demonize to stir up the redneck Red State electorate isn’t what the far-right-wing-commentators have been pushing for the last 8 years [or all the way back to the Nixon administration for some of them] then I’d hate to see how much more extreme you’d have to get to appease these folks—oh, wait, I already have:  Ted Cruz).  However, unlike past diatribes from Moore (I’m sure he’d accept that word to characterize his work because he’s just as unabashed as Trump in taking a stance—unpopular as it may be among his criticsand sticking to it despite oppositional denunciations, although Moore does cite considerably more facts to justify his assertions than Trump seems to think are necessary to defend his policy proclamations), Where to Invade Next is much softer in tone, encouraging in its intentions to present solutions to current social problems in the U.S. that could ideally appeal to most anyone regardless of political persuasion, and ultimately very supportive of American values (including ones actually written into our Constitution, given the current furor over what this document calls on us to collectively do), although the Moore-bashers will likely find nothing but positions to criticize while the lefties like me find a lot to admire in his widely-traveled-ambitions to gather information for this wide-ranging-presentation (however, his publicists didn’t provide many photos to work with so I’ve had to reach a bit for even vaguely-plausible-images to help break up my never-ending-cascade of words; I hope you'll enjoy them).

 In previous docs such as Roger & Me (1989, critique of GM CEO for how his downsizing hurt Flint, MI autoworkers—you can bet that an exposé on the current water crisis there is in Moore’s “pipeline”), Bowling for Columbine (2002, NRA-member Moore “assaults” excesses of U.S. gun culture; winner of the Feature Documentary Oscar), Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004, critique of President G.W. Bush’s war agenda following the 2001 attacks on NYC and DC), Sicko (2007, comparison of our for-profit-health-industry vs. government-based-care in other nations), and Capitalism: A Love Story (2009, the social costs of profit-hungry-corporate-interests) Moore aggressively went after targeted people that he felt owed explanations for their actions, illustrating his arguments with graphics, news footage, and clips from narrative movies and cartoons that spoke to his points.  While there’s still quickly-cut-footage of contrasting situations in the U.S. (and more of those hilarious caustic commentaries) to what he’s showing from Europe and Tunisia in his new film, the overall tone is much less antagonistic, as if he’s followed the advice of some of his less-dismissive-critics in offering a quieter tone to his subject matter in hopes that it’ll be seen and appreciated by a wider audience than the liberal (I know the new semantic strategy on the left is to say “progressive” to avoid the harsh connotations that Tea-Party-wingnuts [Did I just use a pejorative connotation myself?  How ungracious of me.  Tell you what: I’ll clean up my provocations when Sarah Palin does the same, OK?] have attached to “liberal” but what worked in the 1960s for me—certainly not for Nixon and his Silent Majority—still has value for some of us today) mainstays in Hollywood and beyond who eagerly anticipate Moore’s next attack on actions and attitudes that degrade rather than enhance us as a nation, even though his antagonists have difficulty believing that he (and we) truly loves America because if he (we) does, how could he (we) keep knocking this country’s supposed-exceptionalism?  (Although those same sorts of “USA, USA”-chanting-critics of Moore’s viewpoint seem to easily agree with Trump that American needs to be made great “again,” so once more I have problems with processing conservative logic—including the sort that claims our Constitution is a “dead document” intended to be interpreted only as written in the late 18th century unless specifically amended; so long, Justice Scalia, it’s … never quite … been good to know ya.)

 Although the title of this documentary may falsely convey a critique of 21st-century-U.S.-foreign-policy in being so militarily-involved in the various political affairs and quagmires in the Middle East, in fact the “invader” is Moore rather than our Armed Forces as he’s on a quest to symbolically plant the American flag as he claims useful ideas for our national well-being, then brings them home so that we, as the “exceptional” society we claim to be, can adopt them.  He manages to pack quite a travelogue into just under 2 hrs., so I’ll summarize what he focuses on in each country that he visits—with the caveat that some naysayers about this film seemed to have missed his opening directive, that he’s after the “roses” not the “weeds,” so he’s not denying that each of these other countries also has problems of its own but he’s only satirically trying to show (through a lot of faked shock at what he finds) that how the U.S. approaches some situations by and large isn’t working for us so maybe we could reconsider, learning from the experience of others who have solid immigration (another loaded word these days) and historical connections to our country's national development so it’s not like these are truly “foreign” people or ideas.  With all of that in mind, let’s commence our tour.

 He starts in Italy where workers (or at least the ones he interviewed) get 8 weeks of paid vacation annually, along with 12 paid holidays, 15 paid days off when getting married, 5 months of paid maternity leave, and an extra month’s pay at the end of December (work for 12, get paid for 13; such a deal!—also, all of this is government-mandated as opposed to no required vacation at all [including our official holidays, depending on your occupation] in the U.S. where time off from work is all at the will of our employers), producing a very content labor force quite willing to be consistently productive when on the job, along with a managerial class (again, at least the ones interviewed) who find that their profits are quite adequate with their businesses contributing to a national economy accepting of such benefits for the work force.  In France Moore focuses on elementary school meals where in a provincial city he found chefs in public schools working with the local mayor’s office to plan menus a month in advance so that the kids could expect daily, healthy 4-course-meals delivered with enough lunch time to casually eat and digest their nutritious food; when he showed them images of the slop that American kids often have for school lunches they were appalled, nor did one little girl at his table care for a taste of the Coke he had to bring in himself to maintain his own acquired tastes.  In an additional French segment he also showed how junior-and-senior highschoolers are given straightforward sex-ed-classes intended to honestly talk about the realities of our human urges, STD’s, birth control, etc.  (Admittedly, in corresponding school years for me it was way back in 1960-1966 but all I got were admonitions from a priest on an almost-daily-basis in Catholic 7th grade about what little perverts we were, then when I shifted to public school in 9th grade there was nothing about sex ed at all except what I learned later from an oh-so-willing-girlfriend [who shall remain nameless to protect me from a defamation lawsuit].)

 As a further look at public education, Moore’s next off to Finland which has the shortest school days (20 hours per week) and year in the Western world, along with no homework, no use of standardized testing, no multiple-choice-exams (my salvation in college biology, with its obscurefor mebiochemistry focus which constantly confounded my lack of knowledge on the subject, because my semi-photographic-memory allowed me to recognize strange words, phrases, images of protein chains, etc. that I had no real understanding of—and still don’t, so I never gave these kinds of tests to my own students, hypocritically refusing to simply dangle the correct answer in front of them rather than really understanding the assigned material); instead, the Finns’ focus is on true collaborative learning—including the arts and life skills such as cooking—efficient lessons, equality of funding for all schools (no tuition, private schools aren’t allowed), respect for self and others, as well as allowance for play time in order to grow the entire child—cognitively, emotionally, physically, psychologically—with no loss in academic skills compared to other countries.  (These above, compared to most of the ones to be explored below, are places I’ve visited and can somewhat verify Moore’s findings, although I didn’t interview factory and school officials like he did, nor are the emerging problems of increasingly-less-homogeneous-populations in these nations—an aspect of the “weeds” he intentionally avoided—brought into consideration, but, again, Moore’s explorations were intended as fact-finding for ideas that could be put to better use in our society, not rigorous overviews of all the pluses and minuses that can be found in the nations that he toured.)  Slovenia (not Slovakia, once connected to the Czech Republic, with which this Balkan country is often confused) is the one that most directly surprised me because there even college education is free, not only for their citizens but for foreigners so Moore interviewed some American students who’ve found it more economically-viable to travel a great distance for their higher education (where they’ve found many classes in English so they don’t have to first undergo intensive language study) than to stay home, running up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, even at our public universities.  (In contrast to my undergrad costs at the University of Texas at Austin—a location that may seem as “foreign” to some as Slovenia—which were well under $100 per semester in 1966-1970, a huge help given my massive studio art supplies expenses; yet, in those days UT benefitted from a huge endowment from state-owned-oil-money whereas contemporary Slovenia just makes this part of their annual budget—as explained to Moore by students and the country’s President, Borut Pahor, when an attempt was made a few years ago to charge tuition so the students led massive protests that led to the fall of the previous government.)

 When Moore got to Germany his focus was once again on workers but this time not how much vacation they get but instead how they’re required to work, which (again, for those interviewed in this doc) is 36 hours a week even though they’re paid for 40 in a country where even a long tradition of great technological advances hasn’t undercut a stable middle class or traditional industries so that there are still many employees at the Faber-Castell pencil factory where workers can’t understand the need nor the motivation for Americans to work longer hours or take on extra jobs in order to make adequate wages for comfortable living; in fact, comfort is a strong consideration here in that stressed workers are given 3 weeks free stay at a spa (along with their children, if necessary) if they need to decompress from work-related-pressures.  As an attempt to avoid such trauma to begin with, workers comprise half the membership of Boards of Directors nor are bosses allowed to call or electronically contact their employees after work hours.  (Also, in a non-related-to-work but important extra note about Germany, Moore shows how awareness of the country’s Nazi past is kept alive in school lessons, plaques on public walls and sidewalks, etc. in an effort to prevent recurrence of such Holocaust horrors, unlike here where we do our best to avoid discussing our heritage of Native American genocide, slavery, or ethnic-discrimination, attempting to leave the allusion of a post-racial-society.)  In possibly the most shocking contrast to the U.S., though, we next “invade” Portugal where drugs have been decriminalized for 15 years which surprisingly has led to a decline in usage of these formally-illicit-substances; the legal official Moore interviews is very matter-of-fact about how modern societies are awash in addictive options, which for him includes alcohol and the Internet, yet prohibition of these things simply leads to a more fervent desire to have them with the resulting criminalization of large portions of the population.  This interviewee stressed his country’s emphasis on human dignity, with the goals of medical rehabilitation rather than a death penalty looming over someone for past actions (whereas our penal system uses forced labor and denies voting rights, even after incarceration time has been served).

 This topic leads us directly to Norway where prisoners are trained to become (or return to being) good neighbors, with a strong sense of trust being part of this emphasis on rehab rather than revenge.  In what we’d likely consider a minimum-security prison (with no walls) each inmate has a private room (that only he has the key to), there are 115 stable prisoners overseen by only 4 guards, and as one of Moore's interviews shows, a convicted murderer works in the kitchen where sharp knives are easily available, yet no one—including the inmates—seems to even consider violence occurring on the “inside.”  Even at what Norwegians acknowledge as a maximum-security-facility the guards don’t carry guns, there are a good number of amenities, prisoner-on-prisoner-crime isn’t a problem, prisoners can vote so that candidates even campaign within these jails, no one can serve longer than a 21-year-sentence (even the horrific 2011 mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, who’s still included in the concept of rehabilitation—although extreme cases such as his can have successive 5-year-sentence-extensions applied if he’s still considered a threat to society).  In what seems like one of TV’s Saturday Night Live parodies but is a sincere attempt by authorities to find common ground with convicts, when inmates arrive at the more-stringent-prisons they’re greeted by a video of guards singing “We Are the World” to them to engender a sense of social connection; it was hard not to laugh at this from my American perspective of reading about how gangs still operate within U.S. prison walls, death is a constant reality either from guards or other inmates, and few who are finally released can find a proper place in our society again, but in Norway they’re serious about bringing those who can be rescued from the motivations of their crimes back into the mainstream, with a low 20% recidivism rate to show for it (compared ours at 52%, a rate that increases the longer we keep someone locked away).

 Moore’s final focus is on women’s rights in other countries, with a visit first to Tunisia on the North African side of the Mediterranean where ancient Islamic restrictions on women have been in some stage of relaxation since 1973 but freedoms greatly accelerated in the only Muslim country that’s found its way to an awakening of democracy since the heralded 2011 Arab Spring revolutions so that the new Tunisian constitution explicitly guarantees equal rights for females, a sometimes-abstract-concept given concrete manifestation when Moore visits a women’s health clinic where free abortions are allowed (once again I’m thinking of Texas but not in a positive way unless our now-8-member-Supreme Court is willing to strike down that state's cruel restrictions there that have made it very difficult, if not near-impossible, for such options to be chosen, just one more example of the kind of legal thinking in my former home that gave me good reason to leave, hoping those who choose to stay may someday sway politics there to a more humane level—starting with sending U.S. Senator Cruz back to Canada or Cuba or whatever heritage he’s willing to claim).  Finally, Michael’s off to Iceland where women’s rights have also been consistently on the rise since at least 1975 when protests about age-old-sexism led to the first democratically-elected-female-President of any country in 1980 (Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, served until 1996; in 1971 she also became the 1st single woman—divorced as well—to be allowed to adopt a child); since then, Iceland’s adopted rules that require Boards of Directors to be no less than 40% of each gender, no more than 60%; a bank run by women was the only one not to collapse in the 2008 Great Recession with its corresponding financial crisis in Iceland; and 70 bankers and hedge-fund-managers—all men—have been indicted there for abuses during that period (while hardly anyone from U.S.A.’s Wall Street has been held accountable for all of the money, jobs, homes, and dignities lost during that unnecessary-debacle) because, as an interviewee tells Moore, Iceland’s economy has recovered with the emphasis on “we” not “me,” as women leaders advocate “words, not war.”

 Where to Invade Next ends with footage from 1989 of the Berlin wall being chopped down, then more current shots of Moore and a friend walking along a remaining piece of that former barrier noting how such seemingly impossible events as the fall of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, the legalization of gay and lesbian marriage in the U.S. have come about in our recent (or immediate) past, giving hope that the U.S. might soon be willing to adopt some (or all) of the ideas being advocated in this film, especially in that, as various interviewees note, many of them began with us (especially the prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment” in our Constitution) even if they’ve largely slipped away from our current usage.  Where to Invade Next concludes with a clip from The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) as Glenda the Good Witch of the North tells Dorothy that she always had the power (in her magical ruby slippers) to achieve what she wanted (even if it was merely a return to black-and-white Kansas [sorry, Sunflower Staters]), with a final film clip coming after the end credits showing the much-hated-Confederate-flag being taken down in South Carolina.  In the interviews in the links far below Moore says that he’s feeling optimistic because of all of the progressive (some might say “justified”) actions occurring now in our country, although what he’d hoped to celebrate with the release of this film has been notably sidelined by his recent bout of pneumonia which forced him to cancel talk-show-appearances, a 50-date-promotional-tour intended to stir viewership, as well as travel to Europe for likely-well-received-accolades; consequently, despite solid-if-not-fabulous-reviews (76% positive at Rotten Tomatoes, 63% average at Metacritic; more details far below in the Related Links) the debut weekend take of about $897,000 from 308 domestic screens has yielded Moore's 
lowest per-screen-average yet ($2,912) although that may notably increase with the rollout soon to considerably more venues (such better audience response would seriously dampen the mood of my very-conservative Pittsburg, PA colleague, Fiore Mastracci, who’s rejoicing in Moore's so-far-tepid-box-office-impact—see the Links to Other Review Sites You Might Like on the [ironically-appropriate] right of this posting if you want a dose of Fiore’s “Right Critic” opinions, which might go down better with a side dose of bourbon if your views resemble the Left Coast ideology that Moore’s film has encouraged me to spout off at a rate not usual in mainstream-publications).

 To bring closure to my comments on Where to Invade Next—which I think offers a wealth of ideas and practices that I’d like to see rapidly incorporated into American society even though doing so would certainly require a major overall of the ideological/structural/economically-confining assumptions currently in place that produce the vast differences between what we largely do vs. what Michael Moore observed in other nations that have varying degrees of resemblance to our own—I’ll offer you my standard Musical Metaphor to comment upon the film in question, with the content of this documentary (opinionated as hell as it may be, although I think that’s the essential character of all docs despite any assumption about any “objectivity” attempted to be forced onto this form of artistic communication) easily reminding me of Paul Simon’s “American Tune” (from his great 1973 There Goes Rhymin’ Simon album) presented at in a live performance from the fabulous 1981 Concert in Central Park where he’s joined by his famous ex-partner, Art Garfunkel (if you’ve got a couple of hours free [can tolerate interruptions by ads] and would like to revisit the entire event of 19 songs [although a few of them have no video accompaniment] you can start here with “Mrs. Robinson” [from the 1968 Bookends album], then just let it flow—with #3 of this cluster, “America” [also from Bookends], fitting nicely as the earlier bookended concept to “American Tune”).  A final note on this film is that Where to Invade Next will be shown free for a week in Moore's hometown of water-besieged-Flint, MI, but I encourage the rest of you to pay to see it wherever you can.
Short Takes (well, for me this is short)
                      Zoolander 2 (Ben Stiller)

One-time über-male-fashion-models Zoolander and Hansel have been in seclusion for years but the strange killing of celebrities encourages an Interpol agent to get them back in action to help solve the crimes, with the villain still locked away in a fashion prison since the 1st movie back in 2001; the gags are incessantly-stupid but that’s not always a bad thing.
 The plot summary I wanted to avoid with this flat-out-silly-movie starts with Justin Bieber being chased through the nighttime streets of Rome before being viciously killed (seemingly shot about 1,000 times, although there aren’t nearly that many bullet-holes in his clothes); he manages to send an Instagram selfie to the world before dying, which alerts Agent Valentina Valencia (Penélope Cruz) of the Interpol Fashion Division of yet another celebrity death (I caught Madonna and Bruce Springsteen but there were a couple more on screen) with the final image of the same scowl so she seeks out the reclusive originator of this look—Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller)—for help in solving this crime wave.  From there it just continues to get even more intentionally-ridiculous with each wacky set-up more absurd than the last.  (The various antics include former modeling stars Zoolander and his estranged ally, Hansel McDonald [Owen Wilson], in hiding [one in Extreme Northern New Jersey, which looks more like the mountainous Alps, the other in Uncharted Malibu Territory, a dead ringer for the Sahara Desert] because the former assumes he's responsible for wife Matilda Jeffries’ [Christine Taylor] death—and, ultimately, Social Services taking his son, Derek Jr. [Cyrus Arnold], because Dad didn’t know how to make spaghetti sauce—as the result of the collapse of a special school he sponsored, made with materials such as rubber glue, while the latter’s been in hiding [with his 11-member-commune—which began as an orgy—but now all of them, female and male, are pregnant by Hansel] because of a 2-inch-facial-scar from the school disaster; to have to go into the details of how Derek, Hansel, and Valentina attempt to foil the evil plan of Jacobim Mugatu [Will Ferrell] to kill all of the other great fashion designers of the world or the legend of how consuming the heart of the Chosen One-descendant [supposedly Derek Jr.] of Steve [also played by Stiller], the first perfect male fashion model [created along with Adam and Eve], will bring about eternal youth would just be too mind-boggling for me to write or you to read, so let’s not belabor the usual What Happens aspect of Zoolander 2 any further, shall we?  Fine.)

 Given the far-from-spectacular-critical responses to this planned cacophony of idiocy (Rotten Tomatoes, a whopping [not!] 22%, Metacritic with an average score of 35%; more details in the links below if you really need them), you might be asking yourself why I even bothered with this silly mess given that I’d chosen to pass on other availables, including ones with hefty critical support and box-office success (Deadpool [Tim Miller]: Tomatoes 83%, Meta 65%, opening domestic gross $152.2 million; Kung Fu Panda 3 [Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson]: Tomatoes 81%, Meta 65%, domestic gross so far $100.2 million—however, given all the buzz about Deadpool I guess I’ll overcome my initial disinterest and check it out after all, so look for some comments soon [but not for … Panda 3, I’ve seen enough of that stuff already]).  The awful-damaged-ego-driven-truth is that my Valentine’s Day present from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle was the news that I’ve been turned down for the 4th time in a row from membership in this esteemed group so I was simply looking for something stupidly-mindless as a distraction from the bum-out that’s regularly come my way from the SFFCC this time of year (a tactic that worked better with Young Frankenstein [Mel Brooks, 1974] diverting my feelings about my 1st wife leaving me on the Ides of March [no joke] in 1975, but in retrospect I now know that Young Frankenstein is a hell of a better [even deeper] movie than Zoo … 2 ever hoped to be and that I’ve got a much better spouse [the lovely and charming Nina Kindblad, nuptials in 1990] the fabled 2nd time around).*

*Ironically, another encouragement for me to see Stiller’s current silliness is that it got a very positive review from Mick LaSalle, celebrated movie critic of my local San Francisco Chronicle (syndicated far and wide as well) and a major presence within the SFFCC, whereas Tony Hicks, one of the critics for the Bay Area News Group, including the Oakland Tribune that I subscribe to, was quite negative about Zoo … 2; Hicks has been reviewing movies for about a year now, yet he just got voted into the SFFCC (congrats, Tony!), so I guess I should be listening to him more, especially in cases like this where, after viewing Stiller's wackiness, I think Mr. Hicks has a better handle on what happens on screen than does Mr. LaSalle, although my personal response to this movie falls between their extremes.  (In truth, I probably should be writing more like Hicks if I ever want to break the SFFCC barrier because at present my approach seems to be like no one else in the world … but I’m standing pat [with Pat, Craig that is, wherever his first Two Guys review may be], although not putting any money aside yet for that membership-celebration-champagne).

 However, unlike in some reviews I’ve read of Zoo … 2 that claim it’s not even funny, I have to disagree because there’s a consistently-amusing-flow here (sort of like with the old TV series, Laugh-In [NBC, 1968-1973], where the jokes just kept coming in rapid-fire-order so that you could still be chuckling to yourself about something that happened 5 bits ago, helping hold you over until something else works better than the intervening flat attempts [such as in Stiller’s folly, with Derek getting his Netflix discs, one a Jack Ryan movie the other a Jack Reacher, leading him to mutter that it’ll be a “jack-off night”] in between the better parts).  It’s just that the whole damn thing feels like a desperate attempt to pound together about 100 min. of whimsy even though there’s hardly any motivation to resurrect something that simply achieved minor cult status years ago (Zoolander [Stiller, 2001]).  Just like with that now-dusty-original, it’s a bit of a pleasure in this new one to see all of the various cameos by well-known-actors (including Billy Zane, Kiefer Sutherland [part of sensual Hansel’s orgy-family], Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, Sting [Hansel’s father], Katy Perry, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Benedict Cumberbatch [as All, the new paradigm of a model, just married to him/herself], Susan Sarandon, John Malkovich, Susan Boyle) as well as several famous fashion designers (although Levi’s-wearing-me only recognized Tommy Hilfiger by name, along with Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour from what I learned about her from the background of The Devil Wears Prada [David Frankel, 2006]), but after awhile it just gets a bit tiresome in its “look who’s there” inclusions and rambling-script-craziness.  It did make for a pleasant diversion on President’s Day (certainly more so than President Obama's had recently, dealing with all of the asinine Republican resistance to an appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice in the waning months of his tenure), was certainly worth the mere $6.50 I had to pay for the standard Monday Seniors Day at my local Hayward, CA Century Theater, but ultimately it's just a zany, quickly-forgettable-romp.

 In final annihilation of the whole Short Takes concept, I’ll keep this not-so-mini-after-all-review going just a little bit longer with its own Musical Metaphor, which in keeping with the mood of Zoolander 2 simply needs to be the silliest thing I can find; that criterion led me to “Do the Freddie” (from the 1965 album of the same name) by the British Invasion band, Freddie and the Dreamers, at (a performance on a very popular rock-and-roll-based TV program of that time, Hullabaloo [NBC, 1965-1966], with the show’s dancers and the other guests, Trini Lopez and additional-Brit-hit-makers Herman’s Hermits, joining in; the audio’s not too good on this archival-video-memory, though, so, if some reason, you’d like a better aural rendition of this goofy song-and-dance-number, here you go at [better sound, still marginal images]).  With that, I’ll dance away until next time.
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AND … at least until the Oscars for 2015’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 28, 2016 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2015 films made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists and which ones have been nominated for and/or received various awards.  You may find the diversity among the various critics and the various awards competitions hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competition-award-winners (which usually pales in comparison to the even-more-noticeable-gap between box-office-success that you might want to monitor here, and the actual award-winners)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices are as valid as any of these others, especially if you can offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe winners for films and TV from 2015 and the Oscar nominees for 2015 film releases.   In previous postings I added at this point links for recent awards from the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America in case you’d be interested to see how that might impact Oscar voting in those categories; to those I’ll add the winners’ list from the Writers Guild of America Finally, for those of you who’re Netflix subscribers they have a new feature where you can make 1 click to add a cluster of films to your queue, including all the Oscar nominees from 2015 releases for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress in case you want to do some binge-watching before the Academy’s awards-fest on February 28, 2016.

Here’s more information about Where to Invade Next: (1:08:14 interview with director Michael Moore, includes Q & A with the audience that goes off into other topics than this film; if you’d prefer a shorter talk in the same vein by Moore, sometimes on topic but beyond most of the time, here’s one at [34:11])

Here’s more information about Zoolander 2: (8:10 73 questions for Derek Zoolander)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.

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