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The Depress-A-Thon: The Cove by Jamie

In recent years, my impression of dolphins has really gone down a few notches. In my youth I quite liked them but as I grew up, I heard more and more horror stories that convinced me that these so-called ‘clowns of the sea’ were actually unrepentant bastards. I’ve seen reports where they’ve tried to rape divers, cases where they’ve killed men in order to get to a woman and one harrowing documentary which showed the darker side of the bottle-nosed menace where they were actually killing baby porpoises and enjoying the fuck out of it.

No, I consider myself a shark person. Sharks have always gotten a bad rap, Great White Sharks in particular (Ironically due to the success of one of my favourite films of all time, Jaws). The truth is sharks kill very, very few people. Generally they mistake a diver for a seal, take a bite, realise that there isn’t enough fat to make a decent meal and swim off. It’s a shame that that bite can be quite substantial but hey, they’re just predators without a great deal of intelligence. Like Matt Hooper says “All they know how to do is swim, eat and make little sharks.” Dolphins, on the other hand, know exactly what they’re doing. They’re self-aware, highly intelligent and apparently serial-killing, psychopathic rapists.

Still, I highly respect them for their intelligence, an intelligence which we really don’t fully understand. Hell, they might be more intelligence than us but without the benefit of thumbs they’ve really fallen behind in the technology stakes. And that’s probably a good thing. Who knows, if dolphins had the technology to build suits that allowed them to move about on land uninhibited, they’d probably rape you and everyone you care about… I’m fairly sure I was supposed to write about a movie at some point…

So yeah, the film is called ‘The Cove’ and it follows the adventures of Ric O’Barry and his Oceans 11-esque crew of high tech eco-warriors as they attempt to bring attention the yearly slaughter of 23,000 dolphins in a cove in Taiji, Japan. The public face of the operation is catching dolphins for aquariums around the world, selling them for massive amounts of money so they can be enslaved and trained for our amusement like I’m assuming God intended. The rest of the dolphins are then herded into a smaller, more secretive cove nearby and harpooned to death.

And why is Ric O’Barry so concerned about the welfare of these animals which decided to evolve in reverse for some reason? (I mean seriously, what animal evolves to go back to a fully aquatic life after their ancestors had tasted the sweet, easy life on land?) Well Ric feels somewhat responsible for the captive dolphin shows taking off the way they did. You see he used to be a dolphin wrangler and trainer for the TV show ‘Flipper’. It was these show which caught the public’s imagination and began the love affair with dolphins. From then on dolphin shows became big business. O’Barry’s opinion on this treatment of our cetacean friends changed when his favourite dolphin, Cathy, appeared to commit suicide by purposefully closing her blow hole which he attributed to depression caused by her captivity. And it’s easy to see why. If you were born with free range over the planet’s oceans and you suddenly found yourself confined to a concrete tank being forced to do tricks for moronic hairless apes, the noise they make completely fucking up your primary sensory organ, you’d be pretty depressed too.

So O’Barry and his team travel to Taiji in order to film the slaughter, setting up cameras in order to get a complete view of the cove in some pretty sweet covert operations. I don’t wanna give too much away except to say the tricks they come up with to get this whole operation done are pretty fucking awesome. If the real message of the film wasn’t so important I’d say that this alone was reason enough to watch it. Of course the important thing is the message, the footage that they capture and massively depressing and distressing it is too.

I know I’ve made jokes at the expense of the issue and the animals during this review but I just kind of felt the need to because the facts of what are happening in Taiji are truly, truly horrific. The scene where they finally show you the dolphin slaughter is an image that’ll probably stick with me for the rest of my life. You get the impression that these aren’t just animals acting on the whim of a basic survival instinct but intelligent beings who are experiencing real panic and terror, creatures that understand the concept of death just as well as humans do and know what it is that is happening to them. It’s heart wrenching.

The film isn’t just about the well being of the dolphins, though. It also hits on some of the issues surrounding human consumption of dolphin and whale meat due to the high mercury content of their meat and some of the political issues involving the International Whaling Committee and the way that the Japanese government basically manipulates a powerless organisation and buys off other, poorer countries in order to get their support. The lengths they go to in order to keep killing cetaceans is really quite incredible.

All in all I think ‘The Cove’ is an incredibly important film one that should be viewed by anyone with even a passing interest in these animals, even if that interest is as simple as getting drunk and yelling accusations of rape at the ocean… But seriously, it’s an important film, an interesting film and, despite it’s very serious subject matter, it even manages to work a little bit of humour in there as well which is much appreciated when dealing with such a heavy issue. The Cove gets five pints out of five.

To find out ways you can help bring an end to cetacean hunting you can visit this site.

You can buy the Cove on DVD from the Cinepub Amazon.co.uk store.



The Depress-A-Thon: Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father by Jamie

I’m not one for openly showing much in the way of emotion. There are times when I’ll waver between the ups and the downs but as for things like weeping openly, well, it just isn‘t me. This doesn’t seem to apply to movies however. I am, as I’m sure I’ve said before, a bit of a crier when it comes to film. For some reason the over-the-top reality of film just seems more realistic to me. I can’t explain why.

Then there are documentaries which are based on truly horrific real life events. They manage to combine the horror of having these things actually having happened and the over-the-top hyper reality of film. By mentioning the hyper reality of film I don’t in anyway mean that any part of these documentaries are not based in truth but rather I mean that the very nature of films means that you can have many years worth of tragic and terrible events condensed down into an hour and a half, making the experience that much more intense. Such is the case with the subject of today’s review, ‘Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father.’

Fuck. This film fucking broke me in ways that I didn’t think possible. It manages to be both a beautiful tribute to a human being that the people in his life genuinely seemed to love and an horrific recounting of a series of tragic events and for that I must say I was truly blown away. The film managed to strike such a perfect balance between two different parts of the story that just seemed to highlight and intensify both.

Right, now I suppose I should go some small way into explaining the basic story of the film without giving away too much. This could be difficult but is absolutely necessary because you simply have to see this film. Might as well just get that out of the way up front. Ok, so the story then. The basic premise is that the film maker, Kurt Kuenne, had a childhood friend, Andrew Bagby, who is murdered by his ex-girlfriend, Shirley Jane Turner. Kuenne decides to travel to visit and interview various friends and relatives of Andrew in an effort to create a kind of video scrap-book for his infant son so he can get an idea of the kind of man that the father he would never know was. Wow. That was a tortuous sentence.

So yeah, that’s all I can really reveal about the plot of the film without giving away many of the twists and turns that cause the emotion to run so high whilst watching this film. What I can say is that the director is certainly a film maker of some talent. He uses some pretty interesting editing techniques to just ramp things up at the appropriate times. In particular his use of dialogue from the various interviews and statements from those involved repeatedly throughout the film in order to massively emphasis a specific point is especially effective.

I’d also be somewhat remiss if I didn’t mention the true heroes of this film David and Kathleen Bagby, Andrew’s parents. Some of the things they go through in this film will have you on the very verge of disbelief. They seem to have the patience of saints despite the horrific trials they are put through on an almost daily basis. And the way they deal with the events of the film at the very end is truly, truly heroic.

If there is one complaint about this film that I could have, it’s this. The director narrates the film and there was something about it that just kept reminding me about the Primus song ‘Mephisto & Kevin’ from the South Park Chef Aid album. I’ve since re-listened to the song and the voices don’t sound that familiar, there’s just something about the talking style and delivery that seems quite reminiscent of it. It’s not really a criticism of the film, just something that bugged me slightly. It’s definitely a problem with me and not the film.

Well, it’s gonna have to be a short one today because going any deeper into it would risk revealing some of the plot points of this truly fantastic film. Was it depressing? Yes, massively so. Did it make me cry? I’m not ashamed to say that it did. Would I watch it again? Surprisingly, yes. There are certainly some films that have been featured in The Depress-A-Thon which I always be hesitant to watch again. The primary examples being ‘Threads’ and ‘Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door’. Still despite this being as depressing as it is, it is also a truly wonderful tribute not only to Andrew but also his truly amazing parents and, for that at least, it is certainly worth watching again. Five pints out of five.



Depress-A-Thon: Threads Double Repost by Jamie

Well, unfortunately there was just too much to get on with at work last night for me to find a spare moment to finish writing the list of my favourite Sci-fi villains. I did manage to get half of it done and plan to have it up tomorrow. Instead it’s time for another repost in the Depress-A-Thon, this time dedicated to the film which truly scarred my soul, ‘Threads’. I’ve decided to stick the two occasions which I’ve written about ‘Threads’ together since the original review was a little shorter than I remembered.

So included below is the part the bit I wrote about Threads for my top 10 Post-Apocalyptic Films List (Which can be found here: Part 1, Part 2) and, after the video, the original review entitled “Threads: The Single Most Depressing Thing Man Kind Has Ever Put To Film.” Enjoy.

1. Threads

Cause Of Apocalypse: Nuclear War.

Yes, for number one I’m going a little obscure. It’s a made for TV British film that I’ve reviewed before and it’s truly fucking chilling. The acting is corny, it’s incredibly 80s, scratch that, it’s incredibly Northern England 80s and it’s a little slow to start but fuck, after the bombs drop, it’s just… Wow.

This film portrays what life would have been like if the US and Russia had decided to launch nukes at each other and what would have happened had England been completely ravaged by nuclear bombs. I’m sure that a few of the things that are described aren’t considered exactly scientifically accurate these days but I’m also sure that it’s still as close as I’ll ever see a film get to the truth.

This film essentially put me into a sort of mini-depression after watching it. It made me feel doomed, as though at any moment the world could come crashing to a halt if a small group of people wished it so. Keep in mind that the Cold War had been over for some time at this point. Seriously though, there doesn’t need to be a cold war for it to happen anyway. All it takes is a few buttons being pushed and then Boom. Life as we know it will be over. The lucky ones will die in the initial attacks. Oh, god. It’s happening again. Just thinking about this fucking film is bringing it all back. What the fuck is the point?

Still, if you feel that happiness is a commodity that you just don’t need in your life anymore, I heartily recommend ‘Threads‘. It’s incredible and horrifying. Oh god, why? Why?

Threads: The Single Most Depressing Thing Man Kind Has Ever Put To Film.

I love post-apocalyptic films and games. Despite the harsh existence that the people living in the post nuclear war landscape have to eke out, they always seem fun, especially something like Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome or Fallout 3. So I decided to buy and watch the DVD of the BBC’s 1984 nuclear war drama, Threads. Spoilers ahead.

The synopsis promised a realistic look at what would happen if Britain were suddenly struck by nuclear weapons launched by then biggest threat to the Western World, the Soviet Union. I know what the effects of a massive nuclear launch would be, so I wasn’t expecting to be shocked by anything on screen. How wrong I was.

Let me start off by saying never ever watch Threads. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliantly made drama, especially for the time it was made but if you ever want the possibility of happiness to be present in your life ever again, then you really should watch a Mad Max movie instead. Seriously, I think I may have killed joy by viewing this.

The story follows two families in Sheffield, one working class and one middle class. The two families are linked by the fact that the son of the working class family has gotten the daughter of the middle class family pregnant and they have become engaged to be wed. The first forty-five minutes follows their everyday lives whilst highlighting the fact that tension between the US and the Soviet Union are growing due to military movements by both sides in the Middle East.

The film is also interspersed with narration and text that highlights the fact that Sheffield would be a prime target for nuclear strike due to it’s economic value as a producer of steel and chemicals and it’s proximity to a US Air Force base. These little pieces of information continue to mount the tension as relations between the US and the Soviet Union continue to become increasingly strained.

Then the main event occurs. Britain is essentially nuke raped by the Commies. Sheffield itself is devastated, with buildings being flattened and bodies turned to ash in seconds and the pregnant girl‘s fiancée is killed. There are some who have built shelters but the film makes it perfectly clear that the radiation will destroy those peoples futures. Hooray!

The film then follows what happens to the survivors during the years following the nuclear strike. Nuclear winter sets in meaning that during the day illumination remains at twilight levels. This, compounded by massive radiation contamination of the earth, makes the growth of crops increasingly difficult. The ozone layer is massively depleted allowing increased ultra-violet exposure resulting in more instances of skin cancer, premature aging and cataracts and the population of Britain dwindles to medieval levels.

Children are being born more frequently with physical and mental mutations and even those who are born normal have no education and speak broken English. Their parents generally die before the children are able to take care of themselves and are many of them scamper through the ruined cities, trying to scavenge for food and clothing whilst avoiding the gunshots of people who shoot looters on sight.

I’ve pretty much avoided any major plot points of the story because, despite what I said earlier, I think it’s worth a watch. For a made for TV British production it’s all pretty good. The acting and special effects are a little dated but bearable. In fact the only things that don’t really hold up are the fashions and the haircuts. So yes, I’d highly recommend it. But if you do watch it, be warned. Once you watch something, you can’t unwatch it. I spent the day after viewing this film wandering around in a kind of daze, not entirely sure what the point in doing anything was.



The Depress-A-Thon: Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door Repost by Jamie

Yes, it’s another repost in the Depress-A-Thon but this time it’s a video review! Aren’t you lucky?



The Depress-A-Thon: Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door Repost by Jamie

Yes, it’s another repost in the Depress-A-Thon but this time it’s a video review! Aren’t you lucky?



The Depress-A-Thon: Jesus Camp Repost by Jamie

Well it’s time for a look back to an old post that I wrote some time last year as The Depress-A-Thon steam rolls ever forwards. It’s a film that I found both terrifying and depressing when I watched it. That film was Jesus camp. Enjoy.

I’ve previously written about Threads as being the single most depressing thing mankind has ever put to film. There is one film, however, that always threatens it’s position. Hell, it’s the film that was in my mind when I came up with the title for my documentary reviews, Documental. It doesn’t manage to take that title away from Threads though, simply because depression isn’t the overriding emotion that I feel whilst watching this film. In fact it’s a sickening cocktail of anger, hatred, fear and depression. Good times are ahead.

The film follows Becky Fisher and her “army” of god made up of children who seem to range between ages 5 and 13 as they spend the summer at a camp in Missouri and the various japes and shenanigans that they get up to like having seminars where they teach children that a child is fully formed in the womb after seven weeks or having them all pray to a cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush. It’s very much a case of ‘Hello Mother, Hello Father, Here I Am At Camp Retarded!’

What’s probably the most disturbing accept of this film is the fact that Fisher seems to want to teach the children to die for Jesus much in the same way that people are taught to die for Allah in Islamic fundamentalist training camps. In fact, there seems to be even a hint of admiration for these terrorist groups and even a kind of remorse that America doesn’t have a Christian alternative. Worst of all is that the children seem amenable to this philosophy. There’s even a point where one child emphatically states “I feel like we’re kinda being trained to be warriors, only in a much funner way. Like I don’t feel the sense of afraid to die in battle or anything like you would if you were actually going off to a war in the physical. There’s a peace with it all too. There’s an excitement at the same time too, it’s really cool.” Keep in mind that child saying this is a 9 year old little girl.

She’s one of two real main children that you really follow through the film and certainly the one I feel most sorry for. There’s a scene where she talks about how the other kids tease her at school but she doesn’t care. After all it’s God who’ll be judging her, not her schoolmates or as she puts it “Man’s decision–whatever! God’s decision–Something.” There’s a sense of sadness and loneliness about her, however, that seems to suggest that under all the indoctrination and religious fervour she’d maybe like to be a normal girl with friends.

The other main child in the film is Levi. He doesn’t have the sense of sadness that Rachael does which is probably due to the fact that he’s home schooled so he’s probably the spared the torment of being bullied because of his extreme faith. In fact you see a bit of what this home schooling entails. His mother is telling him, essentially, why global warming is a lie, that real teaches would call him stupid for believing in creationism, that creationism is the only possible answer to all the questions and the real gem that comes near the end of the scene in which she asks “Did you get to the part on here where it says that science doesn’t prove anything? And it’s really interesting when you look at it that way.” Excuse me for one moment.

Sorry about that, I feel much better now. Well, I don’t really but I have to get through this. Now, I’m an atheist but the average Christian is fairly inoffensive, rarely forcing their views on anyone else and I’m always happy to enter into spirited debate with these people after which we can agree to disagree and have a pint together. There are occasions when I have made the unfortunate decision to debate with fundamentalists. This no longer happens as I’ve developed a kind of fundamendar, like gaydar except the fundamendar would like to have gaydar banned. I can quite easily spot them now because there is one major sign. The average fundamentalist will have an odd sense about them, you get the feeling straight away that something isn’t right. Then you look in there eyes and you hit on what it is. There’s a vacancy there, a sort of glossed over look like they’ve switched off part of their brain and are using a lot of their processing power to keep it switched off. The cause of this is that they are. They’ve become so steeped in this worldview that it takes over their life completely and all other things are completely meaningless apart from the will of their magic sky daddy. They are, however, still human so the urge for rationality and reason is always there and it takes a lot to keep this basic human need for inquiry completely suppressed. This vacant look is present throughout this film.

There is some humour within this film, albeit unintentional. The film features one Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (at the time), giving a sermon about what the bible teaches about homosexuality and actually making jokes about one of the documentary team being unfaithful to his wife. If you don’t understand why this is funny, please refer yourself to this old video which I made years ago. Please excuse the typos:

So there you go, Mr We Have The Bible To Tell Us About Gays was having gay sex with a male prostitute whilst doing crystal meth. Bravo sir, bravo.

Other highlights throughout this film include Becky telling the chilren Harry Potter would be killed in Old Testament times, yelling at them for being all hypocrites in the eyes of God until they break down in tears, begging for forgiveness, several scenes where the adults lead the children in screams of “This Means War!” and “Righteous Judges!” plus much, much more.

I really have a love hate relationship with this film. I enjoy watching it even though it really, really pisses me off. I’ve watched it more times than I can remember. Maybe I just like getting angry. Perhaps the weakest point of the film is the moderate Christian radio host who’s kind of used as a framing device. I suppose he’s there to provide context and a counterweight to the extreme fundamentalists just so the film makers can say ‘See, we’re not saying all Christian’s are bad, just these ones.” Still, I suppose he’s not too intrusive and so overall I’ll give this film three and a half pints.

Laterz.



The Depress-A-Thon: When The Wind Blows by Jamie

The Cold War era was a great time for depressing media. The nuclear threat cast it’s long, dark shadow all across the globe as the threat of complete destruction was, for one of the first times in human history, very real. From the 50s you had the awesome nuclear safety videos telling people what to do in case of a bomb being dropped such as the infamous ‘Duck and Cover’ which seemed to serve no purpose other than ensuring you died looking like an idiot.

It was this era that gave rise to some of the great post-apocalyptic films as well. ‘Mad Max’, ‘Planet Of The Apes’ and ‘Terminator’ all owe something to growing fear over the complete annihilation of mankind but these films weren’t particularly true to life and largely dealt with the consequences of the apocalypse rather than the apocalypse itself. It is those films which deal with an actual nuclear attack and it’s consequences that are truly the most terrifying and depressing, things like ‘The Day After’, ‘Threads’ and the subject of today’s review ‘When The Wind Blows’.(Spoilers Ahead)

The film is an animated feature and if you’ve ever seen the charming, though also ultimately rather depressing, children’s Christmas film ‘The Snowman’ then the animation style should be rather familiar to you. The story follows Jim (John Mills) and Hilda Bloggs (Peggy Ashcroft), a retired couple living in a remote cottage somewhere in rural Sussex. Jim has become increasingly worried about the possibility of a nuclear strike against Britain and so has decided to follow governmental guidelines and build himself a bomb shelter out a few doors. Hilda is less concerned but indulges Jim in his paranoia, helping him when she can as long as doing so doesn’t interfere with her daily chores.

Both members of the Bloggs family are generally quite optimistic about what would happen if the bomb were to fall. Both grew up during the blitz and have fond memories of nights spent in Anderson Shelter’s and communities coming together to help each other in times of need. Jim in particular is incredibly trusting in the government and it’s ability to continue running the country in a forthright and proper manner should war break out. Neither of them seem to fully understand just exactly what a nuclear attack would mean for them and the people of Britain.

Jim finishes his shelter and, with Hilda’s help, begins to stock it with everything they need to survive the 48 weeks (which Jim later realises is actually 48 hours, a mistake made by his misreading of the official governmental pamphlet) he believes they are required to stay within the shelter to bypass the fallout from the bomb. Suddenly an announcement comes over the radio. The unthinkable has happened. The bomb is on its way. Jim and Hilda scramble to get into their homemade shelter and the explosion rocks their cottage.

The rest of the film deals with the aftermath of the bomb and the effect it has on Jima and Hilda as they re-emerge from their shelter. They find a world in which the countryside they live in is practically entirely dead, their water supply is cut off and even the milk and postmen haven’t managed to make their daily rounds.

Of course Jim isn’t too worried. He theorises that there are bound to be delays during the emergency period that immediately follows the bomb. He’s also adamant that the government are working as quickly as possible to sort everything out and get all of the countries basic infrastructure up and running again. He’s also sure that emergency medical teams will be making the rounds as well, checking up on people, which is a good thing because it seems as though the shock of the bomb is having detrimental effects on both his and Hilda’s health. Jim, it seems, is completely ignorant of the effects of prolonged exposure to radiation.

As the days pass, Jim and Hilda succumb more and more to the effects of radiation poisoning and help still doesn’t seem to becoming. Eventually they decide to crawl back into their shelter, just in case a second bomb is dropped. The film ends with the couple praying before it fades to black.

All in all the film is a stark look at just what effects the bomb would have on people who are in regions that lay outside a major target such as London. There’s would be a slow, agonising death brought on by exposure to the radioactive fallout. Despite this the film is actually quite comical in nature, with much of the comedy coming from Jim’s adherence to the governmental outlines, the couples quintessential Britishness and the couples general ignorance about the consequences of a nuclear attack. There impression of what will happen is coloured by their experiences during the blitz and they expect much the same will happen this time. Of course, it’s this ignorance of the consequences which ultimately spells Jim and Hilda’s doom.

It’s a poignant, funny yet ultimately depressing film that I really do recommend. If there’s one criticism I can make it’s that there are occasional trippy little musical sequences, in particular during a scene where Hilda is hanging up her washing whilst Jim builds his shelter, which seem to serve no purpose and really just doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. Otherwise it’s another excellent example of a brilliantly depressing film based on events which, at the time of it’s production, seemed all too possible. Four pints out of five. Laterz.



The Depress-A-Thon: Happiness by Jamie

Happiness, happiness. I’ve been told that it’s the greatest gift that one can possess. But can anyone ever truly be happy? Is happiness merely a mask that people wear in order to protect themselves from the harsh realities of life? And what of those who can only find happiness by acting on strange impulses and fantasies? Do we as human beings even deserve happiness? (Spoilers Ahead!)

These are just a few of the questions you may ponder as you watch Todd Solondz’s 1998 film ‘Happiness’ a story starring an ensemble cast with interweaving stories which all seem to centre around the Jordan family in particular the Jordan Sisters, Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle), Trish (Cynthia Stevenson) and Joy (Jane Adams).

Joy is thirty-year old aspiring musician who still lives in her parents old home, works a crappy job and has basically no prospects for the future. Her sisters feign confidence in her to her face but in actuality it’s clear that neither of them think that she will ever be anything more than a lonely failure. The film opens with Joy on a date with Andy (Jon Lovitz), a co-worker and it’s clear that she’s just dumped him. He goes on to accuse her of being shallow before making a scene in the restaurant. He later kills himself. This causes Joy to leave her telephone sales job in an effort to do something more worth her while, becoming a teacher at an immigrant-education centre.

The problem is that she’s hired during a strike and even her students accuse her of being a scab. All except for one, a Russian named Vlad (Jarred Harris) who apparently takes quite a liking to her. He gives her a lift back to New Jersey where they have sex. Things finally seem to be going well for Joy until she finds out that Vlad was merely using her for money and to steal things from her.

Helen is a celebrated author who seemingly has the perfect life. She’s rich, famous and can have practically any man she wants. This life, however, leaves her wanting more. She’s worried that people only like her because of her success and she feels, ultimately, that her success is undeserved. She worries that because she writes about rape whilst never having been raped that she is a sham. She desires something more out of life, something to make her excited again.

Enter Allen (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Helen’s neighbour who is obsessed with her and making obscene phone calls. When he decides to call her from work and talk all dirty at her, she traces his number and rings him back, fascinated with the disgusting nature of his call. They finally meet but it soon becomes clear that Helen has absolutely no interest in Allen whatsoever. Depressed, Allen seeks solace in the arms of a more homely neighbour who had been in love with him, a murdering rape victim who is disgusted by the very idea of sex.

Trish appears to be living what I believe some call the American dream. She is a mother of three and wife to a psychiatrist Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker). She doesn’t seem to want for anything except that recently her sex life with her husband seems to have been suffering and she needs him to constantly reassure her that he loves her. Of course, the reason that Bill’s sexual appetite for his wife has diminished somewhat may be something to do with the fact that he is lusting after something else, young boys. He manages to control his urges by masturbating to pictures in magazines but an opportunity soon presents itself that Bill cannot resist.

A classmate of Bill’s son named Jonny comes for a sleepover one night, a classmate that Bill has developed something of an obsession with. During the night he drugs the boy and the rest of his family and rapes Jonny whilst he is unconscious. It seems as though this has unleashed something within Bill and when he learns that another classmate of his sons is home alone, he rapes him as well.

Jonny isn’t feeling to well after his night over at the Maplewood household and is eventually taken to hospital where it is revealed that he has been raped. This leads the police to call round and interview Bill. The police begin to question him about Jonny to which Bill replies with a question about the other boy, pretty much sealing his fate. This leads to a final conversation between Bill and his son where he explains that he did the things he is being accused of, enjoyed them, would do them again but he wouldn’t rape his own son. No, he’d just jerk off instead.

The final story within the film is that of the sisters two parents who, after forty years of marriage are finally separating though not getting divorced. The reason being that Lenny (Ben Gazzara) claims that he no longer loves his wife, just wants to be alone and has seemingly lost all capacity for normal human emotion.

So yeah, that’s pretty much a small synopsis of the film ‘Happiness’… Well, maybe it’s not small but it’s kind of hard to write a small synopsis for a film that has five different stories interweaving with each other, especially when all of those stories all seem to have a fairly equal amount of depth. Some are given more weight than others. For example, though it is clear that Joy is probably supposed to be the main character to some degree, it is Bill who comes of feeling more like he’s the focus of the film. This might be because his character seems to have the most dimensions to him.

Bill is the one who commits the most horrendous and reprehensible acts (acts which are thankfully only ever implied off-screen) whilst also being… I don’t want to say the most sympathetic character but Todd Solondz does somehow make you feel a little sorry for him. He’s different from most film portrayals of paedophiles in that he’s not a one-dimensional monster, he actually has good attributes as well. He’s a good husband and a good father which perhaps makes it all the more shocking when he does the things that he does. He’s not a monster, outwardly he’s just like everyone else and that makes him all the more horrible to contemplate.

The ironic thing about the title here is, of course, that no one in the film is happy. Helen is emotionally unfulfilled despite her pretty sweet life, Joy cannot seem to ever, ever get a break, Allen comes close to getting what he wants only to have any chance of it happening taken from him, Bill struggles and fails to control his urges and one character, Lenny has seemingly lost the ability to feel anything at all, let alone happiness. The implication of it all is that there is no such things as true happiness. It’s either an illusion that people convince themselves is real, either to cope with the horrid reality of living or protect themselves from their true nature, or if it does exist at all then it’s temporary and sooner or later something will come along to destroy it.

Despite this bleak outlook, ‘Happiness’ does actually manage to be rather funny and quite enjoyable. It’s a well made film with fantastic performances throughout. Dylan Baker and Phillip Seymour Hoffman stand out in particular, both managing to convey the conflicts within their characters perfectly. The music also remains ironically upbeat throughout the film, adding another layer to twisted nature of the film by doing things such as playing a happy go lucky kinda tune whilst a man suffers a heart attack on a golf course.

Now, I don’t know whether or not to recommend ‘Happiness’. It most certainly isn’t for everyone and there’s not much joy to be had in watching it though it is still a strangely enjoyable film to watch, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I’m not sure that it does. In fact, the only technical problem I can find with the film is that sometimes it seems as though a few things are pushed just a little too far for humours sake and they fall a little flat and outside the realms of believability that the rest of the film seems to inhabit. Still, I’ll give this film four pints out of five. Haven’t decided what the review for tomorrow will be yet but I’ll try and pick something that doesn’t involve paedophilia whatsoever, though the subject does admittedly make for a rather depressing, enraging and upsetting movie watching experience. Laterz.



The Depress-A-Thon: Deliver Us From Evil by Jamie

The sad fact is that lately I have just been too damn happy. Things have been going relatively well and life is generally quite good. This, of course, cannot stand. I need to create some kind of balance and so to that end I have decided to embark on a special project, The Depress-A-Thon. I will watch some of the most depressing films that I know about, review them here and see just how watching as many as I can affects me. It’s kind of a science experiment if science experiments were conducted in hugely unscientific ways.

Now there is a small problem in that some of the films that will be included in The Depress-A-Thon have already been reviewed on this site. I’m not sure yet whether I will re-review them in the context of the marathon or simply post up the old reviews. I guess it’ll all depend on how I feel.

So let’s start with a little film called ‘Deliver Us From Evil’, a documentary from 2006 directed by Amy J. Berg. It mainly revolves around Oliver O’Grady, a grandfatherly old Irish man with a twinkle in his eye. He also happens to be a despicable monster. No, that’s not right. I generally dislike it when people call others who commit horrendous acts monsters. I feel it’s a bit of a cop-out, as if their trying to remove their actions from within the parameters of humanity. So no, O’Grady is not a despicable monster, he’s a despicable human being.

You see, it turns out that O’Grady was a catholic priest who, from the period of the late 70s to the early 90s, abused, molested and raped at least twenty-five children, the youngest being only nine months old. The first half or so of the film mainly deals with O’Grady and how he was moved from parish to parish as his crimes were revealed until he was finally arrested and convicted of his crimes. The second half of the film deals with the larger issue of child abuse within the Catholic Church and the Church’s attempt to keep it covered up.

The film features various interviews with the families involved in the sexual abuse, lawyers, law enforcement and O’Grady himself. The interviews with the victims are, for obvious reasons, the most moving, in particular those involving the Jyono family who are the main family portrayed throughout the family. Bob Jyono in particular becomes very emotional when talking about O’Grady and it’s easy to understand why. He trusted this man so much that he used to let him stay at his house to get away from the stress of the church. Little did he know at the time that whilst the priest was staying there he was raping his five year old daughter, Ann.

The most interesting interviews, however, are those with O’Grady himself. It’s incredible to watch because the man seemingly has no concept of just how reprehensible the things he has done are. He talks about raping children almost as if it he’d committed a minor transgression against these families, perhaps something akin to accidentally over feeding a pet goldfish or something. It’s a bizarre thing to see. The man has clearly managed to disassociate himself completely from the severity of his crimes. There’s a moment where he is writing letters to his victims, sitting in his Irish home after being deported from America and living on an annuity from the church, who he honestly thinks might want to see him again, discuss the events and hopefully shake his hand. The most remorse you hear from him are the words “It should not have happened,” but even this statement lacks any kind of sincerity.

As stated before the second half of the film deals more with the problem of abuse of children by priests within the Catholic Church as a whole and presents an organisation which is very much about saving face and money. It is shown that they actively move shamed priests from one parish to another without informing the local community or local law enforcement of their pasts. They also ignore the cries of the victims themselves for as long as they can before moving the priest, lying to them and telling them that they won’t be allowed access to children ever again.

There is discussion about reasons that child abuse seems to be such a problem within the Church. One suggested reason is that it’s because Catholic priests are forced to remain celibate. Combined with the fact that many of them begin training for the priest hood right around the time they enter puberty means that they never get to mature psychosexually in the way that a normal person would. Obviously this doesn’t cause all priests to become paedophiles but it could explain why there seem to be such a higher number of cases within the Catholic Church compared with the population at large. It is also suggested that it is this stunting of their sexual growth that causes them to be attracted to children, people who they perceive as mental equals when it comes to matters of a sexual nature. It’s an interesting theory and one that I can see making sense although I’m just as inclined to believe that they abuse children simply because they are the most vulnerable members of their flock.

The film is a stark, shocking look at the problem of child abuse within the Catholic Church today and the Church’s response to it. It certainly feels a bit one sided but then again it would be very difficult for it to be any other way especially considering the Catholic Church refused to be interviewed for the documentary as well as refusing to speak to some of O’Grady’s victims after they had flown to the Vatican hoping for some kind of closure. It’s a film that is actually more likely to make you angry then depressed, though it certainly isn’t very uplifting.

Overall I give this film five pints out of five and I highly recommend it, if you can stomach the subject matter. Tomorrow The Depress-A-Thon continues with ToddSolondz’s ‘Happiness’




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