Category Archives: Quix Picks

Quix Picks: Mindhunter

Mindhunter  This superbly filmed Netflix show is courtesy of Director David Fincher (with a thanks to Executive Producer Charlize Theron), who directed four of the episodes. For a show about serial killers, the emphasis is on how the mind works, not showing the gore. Impeccably shot ‘in the 70s’, Fincher’s love of this era (first so apparent in the movie Zodiac) shines through. Even filler street scenes had me pausing the remote so I could enjoy the old Chevy Novas, Pontiacs, old utility trucks, cop cars. There is a generous feeling behind all aspects of this show – true passion is behind it.

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Wonder Woman movie review by Theo Michelfeld [Quix Pick]

Wonder Woman movie review by Theo Michelfeld Saw the movie Wonder Woman. I’m so happy this movie is good, and so pleased it has become one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Hollywood had long ago turned tail from the dreaded “Female-Led Superhero Film,” the rationale being that Supergirl, Catwoman and Elektra all flopped. And so, to avoid the same fate as that sweeping three-film sample size, the makers of Wonder Woman employed one of the world’s great, time-tested box-office formulas: Don’t Make Unwatchable Crap. And lo, whoa, what do you know… turns out Female Superheroes CAN turn a profit, and then some. In the Wonder Woman movie, the Goddess/Princess Diana leaves her mythical island paradise of Themyscira to join The Allies in World War One. Her quest is to slay the War God Ares, and bring peace to the world. Along the way, we have the dramatization of her upbringing, including her mother’s reluctance to raise her as a warrior. We have her relationship with the American pilot Steve Trevor, which represents her first encounter with a male of the species. We have her consistent, doe-eyed but fierce disappointment with the sexism, industrialization and senseless violence of the modern age. We also have her kicking ass and saving the day. Excellent dialogue, acting and directing bring it all to life. Here and there, Marvel fans will spot the film pickpocketing some the period piece charm and motley crew teamwork found in Captain America: The First Avenger, not to mention the apparently endless visually-poetic potential a shield can provide as a prop. We also have a good deal of fish-out-of-water comedy, which echoes, at times, the first Thor movie. I spotted these elements ahead of time, in the trailers, and I admit they had me dismayed. But I’m happy to report that the film suffers little to none from any of it. It’s all just really well done. Also, the character of Wonder Woman has been around since 1941, and she is just as much entitled to this territory as the boys are. Wonder Woman is portrayed by Israeli actress Gal Gadot, a charming and compelling screen presence with an effortless ability to carry a film. Robin Wright makes a cameo, swinging through the wheelhouse of her own strength, grace and ferocity. Connie Nielsen is a welcome sight, seventeen years after Gladiator. And the reliable Chris Pine serves a crucial role as Steve Trevor. He becomes Wonder Woman’s sidekick, her tour guide, and her romantic interest, and he makes for a self-respecting second fiddle, just as he should in a film that highlights teamwork as one of its themes. Meanwhile, good acting is only wasted without good dialogue, and this film’s dialogue is outstanding. Some have criticized the film as disempowering women by “overly sexualizing” Wonder Woman. The film’s director, Patty Jenkins, offers a beautiful, well-reasoned defense against that charge, which I recommend Googling. But since it’s a free country, I will also mansplain my own two cents on the subject here: In what way is this character “overly sexualized”? She has a libido, but last time I checked, most adults do. She’s damn good-looking, but if that’s a problem, then the same affliction certainly “disempowers” the likes of Superman, Batman, Thor, Captain America, and so on—the whole fraternity. Perhaps she is disempowered by her bare arms and legs? I don’t know… maybe that argument works in the Middle East, but something tells me a superhero film called Burqa Girl would never come close to $820 million internationally. I think some people are just afraid of women’s sexuality, and they can’t handle this movie, which is funny to me, because it’s so much more rational to be afraid of a woman who can throw your ass through a brick wall, no matter what she’s wearing. And so this movie is a masterpiece, right? No, sadly, it’s not. And for this, I blame the culture more than the filmmakers, and I blame misogyny more than feminism. But since I’ve already taken the culture and misogyny to task in this review, let me please explore some angles that may not be so apparent. I mentioned the great dialogue above, and it really is surpassingly great at times, but of course there is more to a screenplay than its dialogue. From a storytelling standpoint, this film plays it very safe, with by-the-numbers story beats we’ve seen too many times before in films of this genre. For example, last year, the Doctor Strange film (for the uninitiated, Doctor Strange is the 57th-or-so most popular male superhero) was no less uncreative, despite all its spectacular psychedelic trappings. And though Wonder Woman is truly a fresher film precisely because of its hero’s gender, both films, irrespective of gender, are behind the curve. Compare and contrast them with 2017’s Wolverine swan song, Logan. Logan is a brilliant new take on the genre, and that’s what can happen when a screen hero has seventeen years and nine films worth of audience appreciation and good will behind him. Wonder Woman isn’t there yet, and though I would immediately yield that this is through no fault of anyone involved, and that the studio was likely wise to “color within the lines” with so much at stake, it is nevertheless a burden this Wonder Woman film brings to the dance. More than that, Wonder Woman’s real obstacle is her invulnerability. People may disagree with me here, and point to the character’s innocence, which is no small element of the film’s plot, theme and quality, and ignites much of the humor, insight and danger. Wonder Woman remains a champion for innocence, even as her own falls away. The innocence is crucial, yes. I just don’t see it as an actual character flaw. When I think of my favorite female screen heroes, they also happen to be some of my favorite characters of all time. Ellen Ripley in the first three Alien films. Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. The Bride from Kill Bill. Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road. What they all have in common is that they have vulnerabilities… even Furiosa does, although granted hers is more of a one-armed minuet with the film’s male namesake. In any case, it is not new or uncommon to find vulnerable female heroes in movies, nor is [...]

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Quix Picks: Anne of Green Gables

Laura began reading this wonderful book from by Lucy Maud Montgomery out loud to me when we visited Prince Edward Island in July and we’ve continued into the fall. Each chapter contains one of the orphan girl Anne’s many misadventures as she tries to make her way in life on rural PEI at the turn of the nineteenth century. This deeply feeling book alternates between humor, empathy and gentle heart to bring you (and Anne) to a better place. If you can’t convince a loved one to read it to you, try to get it as an audio book.

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Quix Picks: My Life as a Zucchini

In my last post I asked you to share your best punch line. Thanks for the submissions! Here are two that got us laughing: “The chicken’s going to a gig!” Best read with a yeti accent: ”Ah, but when you rub it, it becomes an attaché case!” My Life as a Zucchini A French claymation film about the trauma of losing your parents as a child and living in a foster home. Are you still with me? You should be! This wondrous movie taps directly into childhood wonder, joy, sadness, loneliness, anger, love. The sheer depth of emotion rings true – I still remember – to our experience as children. I recently wrote how much I loved the movie Kubo, also a claymation movie. They are both Oscar-nominated, both about ‘hard’ subjects (Kubo is about death) but the claymation is worlds apart. Kubo was smooth, slick. ‘Zucchini’ has more of a Gumby/Davey & Goliath feel. It wears its homespun clay molding, like its raw emotion, on its sleeve. And I love that. And for those of you that are sub-title gun-shy, it’s actually voiced by an American cast (including Will Arnett, Ellen Page, Amy Sedaris) for U.S. release.

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Quix Picks: Greg the Bunny

Funny, charming and forgotten TV show – with Seth Green, Sarah Silverman and Eugene Levy, it was cancelled after one season but lives on in DVD land (I don’t see it on any of the streaming services). I just checked and Amazon’s used copies are going for $1.32.

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Quix Tip: Play Your Work as A Ballad

Pick one thing on your To Do list today Notice the tempo you usually choose to do that task Consciously slow down your speed Play it as a ballad - slow and pretty Notice what changes when you introduce space, beauty and feeling into the mix

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Quix Picks: Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Lots of fun, lots of nods to the old show, and lots of action. There is an added poignancy seeing Anton Yelchin (Chekov), so great in Green Room, and now tragically gone. This Star Trek ‘episode’ (written by Simon Pegg, a.k.a. Scotty) was a great turnaround from the low point of the forgettable second installment. One request oh studio decision makers: It’s always great to see/hear Idris Elba in a movie. However, can someone please give this man a leading role that isn’t a villain?

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Quix Picks: Kubo and the Two Strings

This stop-motion masterpiece is by the Laika studio, the folks who gave us Coraline and ParaNorman (I recommend both) and Boxtrolls (I haven’t seen it yet). Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young storyteller with magical powers on a quest to find his father and help his mother in ancient Japan. With great voice acting by Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey, it’s part samurai adventure, part fantasy, part action-adventure and wholly wonderful. The craftsmanship is extraordinary, just like the other movies that Laika has done. And the attention to historical period detail is stunning. Talk about persistence! To do a stop-motion movie must just be grindingly long and painstaking. So it’s a treat to inform you that the story has enough heft and Joseph Campbell-approved parts to match the visual efforts. I’m a fan of warm colors and this picture is visually lush, with an impossibly gorgeous color palette and lighting. I want to watch it again right now just to enjoy the beauty that’s been given us. Be forewarned, the emotional depth of the story may be too much for very young viewers. This ain’t no Disney movie! Just like I can still shudder thinking of a moment in the movie Coraline where the mother turns around to talk to the daughter and her eyes have been replaced by buttons, there are some raw moments in this with a strong helping of darkness and intensity. But the intensity is balanced well with an enormous amount of heart. And even the last few scenes that some cynics may think of as cheesy ring true to me in the tradition of the African villages that ‘punish’ lawbreakers by telling them how good they are as people and the Buddhist tradition of death opening us up to becoming one with the world.

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Quix Picks: Hell or High Water Movie Review

A ‘high water’ mark in modern day westerns that would make Cormac McCarthy proud. Directed by Scottish director David Mackenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario – a movie I do not recommend), they give us a real feel of west Texas – complete with a posse of pickup trucks chasing the bank robbers, just like in the old west. Chris Pine (the thoroughly enjoyable Kirk in the Star Trek movies) takes us deep, and Jeff Bridges excels as the severely flawed Texas Ranger. From the first panning film shot that tells so much wordlessly, to the last pan around and down into the sun-drenched Texas tall grass – it’s a crisp emotional delight. A word of warning though: a dear friend whose opinion I value hated this movie for what he saw as a lack of originality (seeing it as a homage to No Country For Old Men is putting it kindly) and a glorification of an often mean-spirited ethnocentric view. So, point/counterpoint. If you watch it, I’d be interested to hear your opinion.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them – Quix Pix

This big budget movie was probably hard to escape your notice when it was in the theaters. But if you skipped it, check it out. The big reason? Because it has so much heart, rare for mostly-cynically-manipulative big-budget cash-grabs. Also, J.K. Rowling has matured as a writer. And she had control over most major aspects of the film, including casting. The lead actors chosen are not Hollywood-bland/beautiful. There’s realness to them, and real magic to the story and location as well.  

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