I don’t know why I am drawn to this bold middle-aged curmudgeon named Tom Riley, who fashions himself to be a self-professed paranormal investigator. While I liked the Mandela Effect one about which I even wrote because of its refreshingly ingenious takes on a genre of horror film, it never occurred to me that I would be contracted with the uncanny charm of this ireful, cloddish Jersey man’s fiasco of battles with a legion of nine demons commandeering in the same beautiful house to no end. That’s the gist of this hilariously polished offbeat film about Tom Riley, the alter ego of director Nigel Bach, and that’s why he returns with his own legion of demons in this ‘Bad Ben – the Way in.’
In this installment, Riley goes back to the haunted house of which he was a former owner to rid the demons thereof at the request of a new owner before the family moves in. He accepts the offer for none other than an existential need of money, hence the repertoire of his wrestling with the demons begins: the toy girls still wreak havoc of already edgy borderline neurotic Riley with seven other demons, introducing Clown and Voodoo dolls that look irritatingly menacing without diabolic charisma. Well, that’s the point of this new film by Bach, who seems to render the ambiance of irony fused with comedy and tragedy, which is another stance on life itself according to his view of reality. At least, that is what Bach visualizes his way of weltanschauung with go-aheaditiveness and hubris even though the motives are for lucrative rewards. But then who will pillory the man in need when we all need it to get by?
Mad, bad and bold Riley is here again to do his job, and he does it with his trademark dour humor and grumpy face that render his continuing saga of ghost-busting all the more realistic and business-like, which is all the more refreshing and oddly attractive and highly addictive. If you do not like the person of Riley for his ill-temper at his worst, you can appreciate his resilience, optimism, and courage against the forces of evil at his best. This is Bach’s finest hour.
“You can’t go home again,” declared Thomas Wolfe, who even wrote a book titled the selfsame slogan. That is, the place of memory however dearly held and fondly deemed exists only in the world of your reality, not in this world of existential truths and brutal subjective narratives of inflated egos and cosseted self-aggrandization. Once you’re out of it, you’re cut off from its association that binds you in the circumstances surrounding your whole being like a halo of a saint. For you’re one of them, you’re part of their culture, you’re in their clique. But what if you are sent back home after resurrection from death? Will your expectation meet with open arms or less than heartfelt welcome or even guns and knives?
Meet Kieren Walker, who is one of the undead, a Partially Deceased Syndrome sufferer (“PDS”). To put it more blatantly lucid, he is an unlikely zombie who was treated and humanized to return to home and society. Kieren, a sensitive artistic 18-year-old boy who committed suicide, is “reanimated” thanks to the splendid medical advancement. But the blessing of a second life can be also the cursing of resurrection because Kieren the walking dead must confront the ills of social ostracization, which also include his own family’s changed sentiments toward him in their facades of niceness. It would have been better if he had not risen from death. What a rotten fate for a rotter, thinks Kieren until he meets his best dead friend Amy Dyer, a romantic bluestocking who happens to be a PDS. Despite her abundance of undying feminine sensitivity, Amy smothers her woes and disappointments with her vivaciousness and smiles which are her jewels of loveliness. She is in fact a Beatrice who guides Kieren in the course of his unfinished coming of age with encouragement and support and most importantly, friendship that seems matter even in life after death.
In the Flesh is a well-crafted television drama without shocking suspense or spectacular visual effects associated with Zombies. It is an intelligent drama that draws on social alienation of individuals shunned away for the singularities of their individualities. It spurs the detritus of existential dilemma of anyone who feels estranged from the social mooring made up of jetsam and flotsam of failed expectations, forced conformity, and false valuations of oneself setting against the backgrounds of Social Spencerism, which basically sets forth that might is right to be the fittest. However, this drama doesn’t turn out to be a grand social commentary that vehemently calls for equal rights for all. Rather, its strength lies in the subtle expressions of human feelings and emotions with elliptical scripts rendered authentic by a cast of characters, both imaginary and ordinary. The pathos of the characters is elegantly nuanced throughout the episodes, capturing all the conflicting emotions that one can imagine. For this reason, it is a drama worth viewing among others, all mindless and senseless adrift in Sea of Ignoramus.
Throughout human civilization, prostitution has been arguably something of a necessary evil, intentional or unintentional, an institution of erotic bartering between a client and s prostitute for wants of flesh and fortune. For a client, it’s all about releasing his rapacious libido in a brothel, whereas for a prostitute offering a pleasure of the flesh can be a means to a social mobility in a period when women’s place was confined by biological determinism. But that social mobility would be possible with the intervention of Goddess Fortuna. ‘A Harlot’s Progress’ follows a life of an unfortunate prostitute named Mary through the eyes of William Hogarth, an English painter and social critic renowned for choice of his subjects crossing the strata of the social class system for inspirations.
The painter Hogarth chooses Mary as his unofficial muse for various paintings depicting modern moral subjects as a series of picturesque statements of social criticism on the oppressed conditions of the poor whose lives are already determined by their biological and social statuses. Likewise, Mary’s downfall from a beautiful courtesan to a common, over-the-hill backstreet slut is already a foregone conclusion for the nature of the profession. Besides, she’s not exactly cut out for a fine prostitute with artful plans to forward her rank and condition; she has a pride but no courage. She yearns for a polite society, but her frailty of character prevents her from advancing in her career to a mistress of a high-birth man. In other words: Mary chose a wrong job that ruined her life.
The film is said to be based upon a true story with references to the famous figures of William Hogarth and his friend Henry Fielding, the author of Tom Jones. It gives the veracity of the event with a charge of authority, rendering the story of lachrymose life of Mary emotionally powerful and factually unchallenged in the veneer of historicity. Yet, in terms of objectivity of the stance that the film takes, its view on prostitution in the 18th century London is clearly askew on the side Mary because she is cast as being a victim of the social evil with her purity of the soul torn apart by men’s rampant animalistic sexual desires as presented by all uniformly unattractive and perverted men on screen. In fact, the only pitiful character in the film seems to be Mother Needham, who is mercilessly abused on the pillory for three consecutive days and nights of stoning, defiling, and cursing from the public who were once or twice her clients and neighbors. The sight is sufficient to incite pathos because of her plea for life authentically delivered by the excellent performance of actress Geraldine James.
No one can throw stones at Mary for her life of “sin and depravity” because there’s no one who is immaculately cleared of guilt and sins to judge her character as arbitrator of morals. But then she is responsible for her own life with her own free will to choose to be a harlot. For not all destitute women driven by abject economic conditions are succumbed to the trade of the flesh. Nonetheless, this film is a good period drama that resurrects the ethos of the time with the parlance, habits, and costumes of different classes peculiar to the 18th century, well executed by a cast of classically-trained fine thespians.
Life reminds me of a Baroque fugue that begins with the exposition of a short melody developed by another successive busy melodies and interwoven into a dramatic final entry in tonic. For It is a continuous surrendering of the old and a trust in new beginnings with lots of in-between episodes, intricately interwoven by multiple strands of occasional chances called “luck,” failed expectations, and grace of hopes that creates a curiously riveting toccata. In this film by Kore-eda, Ryota’s is a ballad whose vicissitude of life diverts him from completing it. But then Ryota is a soft troubadour, who wants to sing a happy song with his fractured but beautiful family.
Ryota, once a promising novelist, now a divorced middle-aged struggling writer, makes a living as a part-time private detective under the pretext of enriching his writer’s imaginativeness for his next best oeuvre. He loves his ex-wife and his son dearly, so he always hangs around them surreptitiously. But he does not understand that how he feels about them is unrequited because he is not in their lives any longer. In fact, Ryota is even unsure of himself, of his reason for writing, and of what he wants to become amid his dwindling writing career and growing distance from his already fractured family. There is a sense of drift in his life, that feeling of emptiness, loneliness, and disappointments, all fragmented in the detritus of broken wishes, unpaid dues, and lost dreams. He has nonetheless a heart of gold, and his humor is his saving grace that helps him get going. Ryota’s life has been in the doldrums for so long that he forgets he has to move forward to get out of the stasis binding him in the longing for bygone days. A stream of pathos oozes out to see Ryota thinking, ‘Who would have known my life would turn out like this?’
Director Kore-eda uses the storm, more accurately a typhoon, as a medium to free Ryota from the memories of the past, from the obsession of his past, in order to give him a new meaning of life, will to meaning. Kore-eda does a beautifully nuanced job of capturing the innermost feelings of the characters without elaborate lines or supra-abudance of emotions throughout the scenes. It is a Japanese film, but the sentiments and judgments of the characters are rendered communicative to the hearts of the universal audience.
Tales of mistaken or traded identities between either by the irony of fate or whimsical voluntary submission bespeak our desire of realizing dreams and desires at one fell swoop without drudgery of going through rules and conformations of social norms and mores. From The Prince and the Pauper to Cinderella and to The Trading Places, the basic story lines contextualize the instant social mobility of improving one’s social status and the essence of human nature laid bare in dealing with new milieus. But forget the verbiage of latent sociological theory and academic analysis because after all, we all know that such wish for rapid social escalation is only father to the thought. So why not continue to enjoy the world of wishful thinking entertainingly translated on screen for the sake of art, such as this delightful movie Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy (AKA The Whipping Boy)?
Guess who’s the prince?
The movie has a charm of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, giving it impression of a spin-off from the two stories in all likelihood. But what makes it worth the viewing are the characters whom you find difficult to dislike and the detailed background setting that conjure up the spirit of the time and bring out the personalities of the characters delightfully rendered on screen. The young prince is not really a brat but a lonely child who needs love and attention from his ever busy king father. The prince’s impudent pranks are signals for sending emotional SOS to the king who puts the security of his kingdom before the attention to his one and only child. And there’s a young rat-catcher about the same age as the prince who accidentally finds himself as a whipping boy for the unhappy prince. What happens next is the gem of this movie in their subconscious quest for their cherished ends, their treasures at heart, through their eventful journey together in the unlikely duo of the prince and his whipping boy.
All in all, it is a little cute feel-good movie intended for all ages about what’s really important in life. Yes, we all may know the answer to it, but it really touches us in the denouement of the movie, leaving us with a feeling of warmth, affection, and jolliness, chiming the emotional, sentimental bells of our childlike imagoes. That said, if you want a movie that takes you away from your worries and sadness arising out of living adult life for some time, this movie might do good for you as it did for me for the day.