Articles

Best F(r)iends: Volume 1 & 2

Cult movie(s)

/ Remi
Best F(r)iends: Volume 1 & 2 cover

I like to believe that those of us who consider ourselves fans of The Room do so without a snarky, ironic detachment. Tommy Wiseau’s magnum opus might not objectively be good, but it was undeniably made with a lot of heart. Read co-star/line-producer (an impossible combination) Greg Sestero’s book on the movie, The Disaster Artist, and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for what Wiseau wanted to create, too. The Room might be a story of misplaced self-pity, but then, how many of us can claim to have made an enduring cult classic when we were down in the dumps? The Room is, for all its warts, an inspiring and hypnotically fascinating movie.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the Sestero-penned Best F(r)iends duo of films (which I consider a singular entity). I knew it was inspired by the writer’s friendship with Wiseau (which miraculously survived the nightmare filming of The Room), and that the latter’s role was specifically written for him. What I did not expect, was that Best F(r)iends, for all intents and purposes, is Sestero’s The Room. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an almost infinitely better movie, but if The Room serves as Wiseau’s view on the duo’s friendship, Best F(r)iends is Sestero’s perspective. And while The Room unintentionally was bizarre, Best F(r)iends is purposefully strange, dreamlike, and surreal.

We follow Sestero’s Jon (in a nod to The Room’s Johnny) who befriends his new mortician employer, Wiseau’s Harvey, a man of unknown age, with a mysterious past. Soon, Jon hatches a plan to sell gold fillings picked from the morgue’s bodies, kicking off a downward spiral of greed and paranoia. It’s something out of a David Lynch movie.

Fans of The Disaster Artist and The Room will be served a number of nods and references to those two works—IMDb’s trivia section doesn’t even come close to cover it—yet it never feels forced. Sestero and Wiseau consider Best F(r)iends the second part of The Room trilogy (James Franco’s The Disaster Artist adaptation the third), and the symbiosis is natural. It’s a fascinating watch.

How good of a standalone movie Best F(r)iends is, I don’t know—I’m too entrenched in The Room lore to be able to determine that. It certainly has its flaws, and the first thirty minutes could easily have been compressed into a third of that. At times, the limited budget becomes painfully apparent, and additional takes could have helped some of the more painful scenes.

Yet, I can’t help but find a lot of things to like, even for those who know nothing about The Room. The colors look gorgeous, and the film has a very distinct visual style. It’s the bizarro The Room. And god help me: Wiseau is great. He is, of course, 100% playing himself, which probably is the extent of his range, but the character fits Best F(r)iends perfectly. I don’t think anyone else (sans Franco in character as Wiseau) could have played Harvey.

The soundtrack, too, fits the tone of the movie with its ambiance and sonic landscape.

Best F(r)iends exists in its own surreal, little world, just like The Room does, and while it might be the second entry in a loose trilogy, it deserves to be recognized as a cult movie in its own right. It’s weird and often wonderful, and Wiseau and Sestero clearly have a lot of fun on screen.

The ending sets up for a volume three. I would welcome it: The world, as it is today, needs Wiseau and Sestero to bring their particular style of joy to it and us.

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You

Lifetime Movie

/ Remi
You cover

It’s the age-old story: Girl walks into boy’s bookstore, boy falls for girl, boy stalks girl, boy breaks into girl’s apartment, boy kidnaps girl’s boyfriend, and… Well, you know the rest. It’s Love Story of our time.

Based on the novel of the same name, You is a Netflix-streaming Lifetime show, and it does everything you would expect a Lifetime show to do. It’s an over the top stalking story, filled with flawed characters, most of whom are downright unlikable to the point of them being social media influencers. Yow. When the most sympathetic character is the stalker-cum-murderer, you know you are watching dubious quality. And yet, it’s absolutely glorious.

I can only assume Lifetime was angling for Henry Cavill to star, but had to go with the closest lookalike, Penn Badgley, when realities of funding set in. It worked out surprisingly well. Badgley does an impressive job as Joe, striking a balance between creepy and charming. He appears in virtually every scene throughout the ten episodes, without giving the slightest wink to the camera, no matter how outlandish the plot gets, which is pretty damn outlandish. The production value might be higher than what you’d expect from Lifetime, but You is as over the top as anything Meredith Baxter has starred in.

How no-one seriously seems to find it particularly strange that everyone around Joe disappears without even a good-bye—ghosting them—is baffling at best. You would think somebody, somehow would question why a serious number of his girlfriends’ acquaintances are victims of gruesome accidents. You really don’t have to be Columbo to figure this one out.

Yes, You is high-concept, but entertaining it is none-the-less. It is presented in the type of slickness one would expect from the producers of Riverdale, and the cast gives performances one wouldn’t or shouldn’t expect from anything of You’s pedigree. If there ever was a guilty pleasure, You is it, to the point where their dignified statesman of special guest stars is John Stamos. That’s right—Ray Wise and Steven Weber have been replaced by Uncle Jesse. That’s a statement in itself.

Inexplicably, You has been renewed for a second season, and I have no idea where they can go with it. No matter, I’ll be there, binge-watching the crap out of, getting sucked further and further into a vortex of Lifetime lore.

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Rams

Documentary

/ Remi
Rams cover

If you like design of any sort, odds are you at the very least respect Dieter Rams. At the German appliance company Braun, he led the design of products that still are iconic, not just because they look good, but because they define how we can and should work with appliances today. For all intents and purposes, I doubt we can improve on the Braun ET66, as far as a pocket calculator goes.

It’s surprising it has taken this long for someone to make a documentary about the man. Product design has gone from being du jour to something that is expected these days. Apple (and Rams acolyte Jony Ive) ushered in the modern era, and even companies like Microsoft has started taking design seriously1 over the last half-decade or so. Would any of this have happened without Rams? Maybe, maybe not, but there is no denying his impact on our contemporary world.

Gary Hustwit was the right person to make the movie. His work on Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized is very much a part of our design zeitgeist, and Kickstarting Rams was a no-brainer for me. Not surprisingly, the documentary places itself well into his canon. It’s a fascinating and inspiring movie.

Rams is formed in the type of simplicity its namesake has been a steward of for almost sixty years. We learn about Rams’s history from being a young architect, through his forty years with Braun, to his current work with Vitsœ. He talks about his philosophies (captured in his Good Design principles) as well as his opinions on contemporary design.

One particularly amusing scene shows Rams in an Apple Store, with his voiceover lamenting how products today aren’t designed to last; it’s easier to buy a new model than getting the current one fixed. I’m willing to bet a large percentage of Rams’s audience is made up of the very people who design those products.

It’s a good documentary, then, and a must view for anyone who has an interest in design, or those who just wants to learn a bit more about why the world around us looks like it does.

1 Though nice as the Surface may be, it’s close to all for naught as it doesn’t run an operating system that can handle the touch interface the hardware was designed for.

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The Mickey Mouse shorts

By Remi

If the victor of the cartoon wars of the thirties and forties was Warner Bros. or Disney is entirely subjective. On one hand, Warner’s shorts—Bugs, Daffy, et al.—are still more omnipresent than what Disney produced. On the flip-side, Disney has been a feature-length animation juggernaut since Snow White so it wouldn’t be outlandish to call it a draw.1

Me, I’m into the recent Mickey Mouse shorts. They maintain the sensibilities of the late-twenties/early-thirties cartoons, with similar character designs to the classics, and stories in the vein of Steamboat Willy. To wit…

These new shorts feel more like something seen in today’s alternative animation, and with the atrocities Disney has performed with the characters over the years, it’s nice to see them coming back to their roots.

1 Disney’s standalone shorts, Silly Symphonies, artistically trump any of the others, but that’s neither here nor there.