Monday, April 24, 2017

People need their history. It gives them strength.

I can hear Jimi.

Many years ago, when I heard this certain exchange in Ron Shelton's White Men Can't Jump, I thought I understood it. See, the two main characters, Billy Hoyle and Sidney Deane were arguing about music when Billy, a goofy white dude (Woody Harrelson, my hero) claimed that he too loved Jimi Hendrix. Sidney, a super-smooth black dude (Wesley Snipes, also my hero), essentially states that that's not possible. And as your typical (cluelessly) know-it-all high-schooler, I got the joke but disagreed with Sidney. Anybody can get anything, and it was unfair to think otherwise, you know?

But now I'm older. Not only do I know what I know, but more importantly, I know what I don't know. I'm with Sidney. I think it's entirely fair that where you're born and raised can exclude you from really knowing about something, right? But even more telling?

When you were born and raised.

As much as it's possible to enjoy a two-hour funeral service, I liked last year's Jackie a good deal. Like the rest of the world, I was hopelessly transfixed on the stellar performance of Natalie Portman, I'm just not sure I can fully appreciate the film surrounding it. Oddly enough, I was born just thirteen miles from where JFK was assassinated, but sixteen years after it happened.

Set before, during and after the horrific events of November 22nd, 1963, Pablo Larrain's meticulous film plays like a documentary at times. Juxtaposing the nationally-televised version of our then First Lady with the determined (and at times, despondent) mother and wife behind-the-scenes, is a harrowing yet inspirational view of the iconic Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Obviously, any person dealing with that unimaginable level of shock, grief and despair would struggle immensely. But Mrs. Kennedy? At that time? And on that stage? Her response is nothing short of breathtaking. She's entirely (and deservedly) overwhelmed, but somehow, she keeps it together.

But you know who ended up overwhelmed? Ol' m.brown, that deer-in-the-headlights a-hole from the shittastic Two Dollar Cinema. See, as much I was totally hypnotized by Queen Amidala tirelessly grabbing the audience by the short and curlies, I ended up the same way we find the First Lady: glazed over in my awe of what's was unfolding in front of me. It's a solid film (brilliantly recreated) and a stellar performance, but for whatever, if that makes sense.

Horribly brilliant.
And yes, I realize...that's entirely the point. Seeing a woman deal with the assassination of her husband on the biggest of stages likely shouldn't be a whimsical journey of self-discovery. But as the quiet minutes of suffocating despair wore on, I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the end, honestly. It's so incredibly depressing, you know?

[Also depressing, is the fact that I began to question my personal stamina for unpleasantness while watching Jackie Kennedy stoically plan her husband's funeral]

Speaking of pathetic revelations better left for a whispered parenthetical, here are the Yays and Boos. What could there possibly be to cheer for in a film about the murder of our President? Uh...


  • Whoa. That voice. 
  • Billy Crudup is in this. I love Billy Crudup. I will always love Billy Crudup...even though he looks like he aged forty years since I last saw him (I permanently have him locked in looking as he did in Big Fish). 
  • Whoever that guy was that played JFK, he just may have been the best lookalike ever.
  • I'm not sure how many scenes actually take place in a hospital, but this is one of the most perfectly sterile movies I have ever seen. I swear, at times, you can hear the 8mm camera running...
  • I endlessly loved the trailing camera shots that patiently followed Jackie O. throughout the White House. It's kind of like Resident Evil 4 for the Gamecube, except way more frightening.
  • Man, Jackie is always smoking. Which is odd, because she doesn't smoke. 
  • John Hurt shows up as a priest and is fantastic in every single frame he's in. I loved how earnest his character was.
  • And finally, Natalie Portman. Though part of me isn't entirely sure how good her portrayal of the First Lady is (I'm assuming it's perfect), what she does other than looking and sounding like Jacqueline Kennedy is astounding in its own right. The guttural despair, the courageous leadership, the f--k you, this is what I want steadfastness, all of it, is nothing short of epic. I think it takes a certain amount of courage to even accept a role like this, let alone deliver a performance so emotionally captivating. In a word? Damn.

Have you no couth, Powers That Be?

  • I think we've got a world record for awkward smiling. It was getting like a bad SNL skit for a minute there...
  • What does an autopsy entail? Uh...
  • Man, f--k off, Lady Bird. Not only do we not need your help changing...but maybe be pick out new curtains AT A LATER DATE.
  • Speaking of being a callous a-hole, I really didn't like anything about Peter Sarsgaard's take on Bobby Kennedy. His accent is terrible and he looks about as much like Bobby Kennedy as I do. (uh, I don't)
  • Oh, and what was with Bobby turning on her? That ain't right.
  • Welp. That shower might've felt good but it looked the direct opposite.
  • Did she really pack her own boxes? I'm assuming this is historically accurate...but what the Hell, man? This is wrong on so many fronts.
  • I know Jr. dies years ago...but it kind of tore me up seeing the little version of him knowing how he goes...
  • Watching the Zapruder film is bad enough (and I just, but the cinematic recreation of it is even worse. I don't know if it necessarily made me uncomfortable...but it certainly took the air out of the room.
  • And finally, as morbidly fascinating as this story is, it's so f--king joyless and depressing, I'm always left at a loss. It's compelling, sure, but every time I fall down this rabbit hole I emerge hours later feeling less nothing short of terrible.
When I finally finished watching Jackie (it took me three attempts), I immediately needed context (or at the very least, firsthand verification). Wife? Asleep? Kids? Too young. Dog? Both.

But my mom. however, born in 1951, not only lived in Boston at the time, but would be the lady that would move her family to what is basically the grassy knoll - she could help me appreciate what I had just seen, right? Right?

The film had come out recently at Redbox. Surely my sixty-six year-old mother could have driven to the grocery store and successfully rented it. Then driven home, figured out the damn DVD playah, eventually managing to get her TV to the right input without calling me...

Okay, fine. Maybe she could hear Jackie...

...but she sure as Hell couldn't see her.


  1. I hate that Natalie Portman didn't win an Oscar for this. She was so good. I never thought of the film as a two hour funeral service but you're right, it really is.

    Fuck the Johnsons. That photo you used of Jackie standing there all bloody as he's sworn is is so gross. I lol'd pretty hard when Bobby told him to sit down at a later time.

    1. Yeah, I don't even remember who won? It was Stone, wasn't it? Welp...that's a dilly of a pickle. I loved Stone. But this? THIS? This was something extraordinary.

      Indeed. The Johnson's were the worst. Of course, after the film, I read all kinds of shit and you can't help but stumble onto that photo of Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One. Unbelievable.

      F--king Bobby...

  2. I really loved this movie but I can totally get how it's a hard watch. It's very relentless. Portman should have won that Oscar. I loved that part about how she doesn't smoke! Any thoughts on the score? That was one of my favorite parts.

    1. I don't think I could ever 'love' this movie, but I hear you. It so vividly captures the endless despair that surrounded the Kennedys and the tumultuous times of our country, I appreciate it...but I don't ever want to see it again.

      I remember the score being incredibly unsettling....but maybe that was just me?

  3. Totally agree with your review; the film felt arduous, but boy did Natalie give one of her best performances. She really should have gotten that Oscar over Emma Stone...what a joke.

    1. I was all in for Stone immediately after La La Land (yeah, I was that guy), but I'm not sure how in the Hell Portman goes home empty handed.

      As for this flick, it's well done top-to-bottom, but nothing I would ever want to revisit. The grieving process is certainly compelling...but f--k, it's anything but enjoyable.

  4. Hey, our moms are the same age!

    I'm astounded you 1. started watching it 2. finished watching it. This was one tough watch. I admired the movie and quite liked Portman here (I think she is way overrated, I barely even nominate her) but it was...well ambitious but not very entertaining in a sense it didn't really move me. It's the film I recognize is good and unique but I have no feelings towards it, it didn't really stir anything in me and in turn it wasn't very memorable after all.

    1. Ha! That's funny. I figured mine would be older...

      Like pretty much every guy, I'm a big Portman fan, and I was interested in seeing her performance. On top of that, I'm totally fascinated by the Kennedys, as they were something bordering legendary in my house growing up. My parents didn't revere much...but the Kennedys seemed special to them in some way.

      I was a bit horrified at times during this movie, and the recreation of the assassination was jarring. What I'm saying, is that for me, that would qualify as memorable. But, I'm with you too, you know?

      She was so despondent and zoned out...the whole film plays out like experiencing something traumatic. It happened, sure, but you don't really remember it.

  5.'ve made me want to see this movie. It sounds like it may require more emotional stamina than I have these days, though. :-)