Friday, February 24, 2017

Netflix (and Amazon and Hulu) Documentary Hits & Misses Vol. 24: February 2017

It's February, so I thought I should keep things a lil spicy and throw in a documentary from Amazon Prime streaming and one from Hulu. I have also been single-handedly trying to watch as many movies in Oscar contention as possible, because I love spreading myself paper thin with no consequence self-imposed goals. [Tangent: I will probably write about those before this weekend though, so it's not a completely wasted past time. I've watched all the best pictures and a great deal of the other nominated films.] Luckily one of these killed two birds with one stone as it is an Oscar-nominated documentary [Tangent: I'll give you a's not My Online Bride.]!

The National Lampoon: Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead- A (Netflix)
I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know the impact of The National Lampoon until watching this doc.  The basics of the titular movie series and some of the famous cartoons and stuff were familiar, but I had no idea about all the great minds like Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase and John Belushi that basically cut their teeth on Lampoon projects. I laughed uncontrollably at so many parts because they were simultaneously smart and stupid, which is my favorite combo. It's definitely not something to watch with your kids or parents because it's titties and sex galore, and a lot of the things stated are meant to be controversial, so remember that when you are watching. I feel like many current sites like McSweeney's, Reductress and The Onion can trace their roots to the Lampoon.

Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig- A- (Netflix)
Confession: I have never seen Party Monster, [Tangent: Somehow it evaded me in college and I guess I like to remember McCauley Culkin as Kevin McCalister or Thomas J. Sue me!] so the story of NYC club kid, Michael Alig, was one I knew only vaguely, from nodding along in conversations about Party Monster. This movie follows his story from his humble small town beginnings to his tango with drugs and his eventual crime [Tangent: Bum....bum...bum...]. I am kinda glad I went in blind, because I LOVE any true crime angle and the colorful assortment of characters they interviewed was fantastic and everything was a surprise. Each interviewee was better than the last. I mean, I would expect no less from the 80's New York club scene. [Tangent: I don't think I have been more obsessed with documentary interview subjects since Bill Cunningham's New York. If you haven't watched that yet...make it a double feature.]

Life, Animated - A+ (Amazon Prime Streaming)
I have wanted to see this movie long before it landed an Oscar nom for best documentary. [Tangent: Sorry that sounded hella pretentious. I'm just saying that it was on my radar for a while, because it's about disability and the love of duh. I'm sold.] The movie is very raw and real but blends animation storytelling and Disneyana, and it is done in a way that is not at all hokey, which is impressive. It tells the story of a young man with autism, who at a young age was nonverbal and struggling to connect to his family, but eventually gained the skills through an obsessive love of Disney animated films. It truly made me feel fantastic. I watched it on a day where Jamie and I watched 4 Oscar nominated film, and by far this was our favorite [Tangent: Suck it, Hacksaw Ridge!]. Even though I'm pretty sure 13th is going to win the little golden man, I truly LOVED this movie.

Fursonas- A (Hulu or here)
You need really say no more than "a documentary about furries" and I am 100% scrounging for the roku remote to get it started before you can complete your thoughts. Thanks to my friends for pointing this one out to me because I am still new to Hulu and unleashing its possibilities. [Tangent: "Unleashing?" is that a weird furry pun? I can't even tell anymore.] I LOVE a strange subculture and learning what they're all about, and it appears the filmmaker behind this one was a furry himself, so his insider perspective was interesting [Tangent: Oh, case you are not aware of what I speak. "Furries" are people who dress in animal costumes as a means to reflect who they really are. It is sometimes a sexual fetish...sometimes not. There was debate on that within this film. ] There were so many moments that will forever be burned into my brain stem: The young gay man doing an elaborate dance routine in his animal suit. The charismatic leader at their gatherings, who gave off a decidedly David Miscavige vibe, at least in his messaging. And the creator and distributor of sex toys made for furries, which were disturbing and made me very uneasy (THAT'S SO HARD TO DO!). Also if it doesn't lead you to a long conversation about what your hypothetical "fursona" would be, I don't want to know you. By the way, we deduced I would be a rabbit...not that you care.

Most Valuable Players- C (Netflix)
Can I be honest,  even though I am a huge fan of musicals, I sometimes find theater kids a little obnoxious...okay...very obnoxious [Tangent: I know...I know...I am the most obnoxious person on the planet, so take that determination with a grain of salt.], Even still, watching a whole documentary about obsessive children spoke to my interests...because you know how much I love a Jesus Camp or a Magic Camp or even a Bible Quiz. I can't not watch a doc about awkward teenagers, it goes against nature. This doc, which I watched when I needed a break from seeing Trump on television, follows three high school theater troupes and their roads to the Freddy Awards ceremony, which is the Tony's for high school students. I love the idea that the arts get the same (or more) community hubbub as sports, but I was a little underwhelmed. I will say that my low rating may be attributed to the fact that (spoiler!) multiple schools were doing Les Miserables, which is one of my least favorite musicals.

My Online Bride - D (Netflix)
This is my third foray into movies about meeting a love online (specifically through "mail order bride" type scenarios), so I am an unofficial expert on this thing that is really weird to be an expert on. This one was a little boring, and if you think that subject sounds interesting watch Love Me or When Strangers Click...or just marathon a 90 Day Fiancee. Those are much better comparatively.  Thankfully, it is under an hour, which is a weird compliment for a movie.

SO MANY ALREADY ON MY LIST... and YES, I am gonna get to Deprogrammed in March. Promise! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Rise of Dying Teen Cinema

Today I was scrolling through Facebook and spotted a trailer for a movie I hadn't ever heard of,  but that looked semi terribly cheesy so I think I should have- Everything Everything. From the preview, I could glean it was the story of a girl who was unable to go outside due to some exoticly romanticized lowered immune disease. [TANGENT: Swoon! Am I right?] Here's the trailer so you can see what I am talking about before I move on.

Basically, it's the 2017 girl version of the as seen on TV 70's classic, Boy in the Plastic Bubble, but with less JohnTra and more Ed Sheeren songs [Presumably. I have no idea if that is even true. Ed Sheeren just seems like the patron saint of slow dancing in the rain...which seems like someone no one has ever done in real life, unless they are living their best life and looking death in the kisser.]
 For the record, I love movies and am not above anything. [Tangent: In fact that's pretty much what should be inscribed on my tombstone. As much as I try to watch well-crafted pieces of art, I legitimately enjoy a lot of terrible movies. I hold Never Been Kissed and movies in Oscar contention with equal esteem.]  I LOVE to halfway hate-watch a hardcore scmaltz-fest from the sanctity of my living they are meant to be viewed 100% alone [Tangent:...and then inevitably beginning to cry...and then just get angry at myself for taking the low-hanging bait...and bubble over with self-loathing as the predictability and contrived nature of what I have just viewed sets in.]  I have even paid hard-earned dollars to see them in theaters, because despite my best efforts, I can be incredibly cliche and lame. Here's my friend Rae and I proving that we thought the tear-fest Me Before You needed less montages and more reality. [Tangent: I felt I had to read and see it after all the backlash from the disability community. I don't bandwagon jump until I see it for myself.]

 I have seen all the other movies  that are part of a weird trend of movies that fall under the umbrella of "You're Sick, but I love you!" - Me Before You, If I Stay, The Fault in our Stars...all the way back to A Walk To Remember, which my best friend and I laughed through because we are terribly calloused individuals. 

Still I wonder...
"Why is this a thing?"

Trust. Being in love with someone with an illness is not so romantic [Tangent: I know the Nicholas Sparks of the world would beg to differ because they love to have people come down with sad and glamorous diseases. ]. I wish it was! I'm not saying I completely frown upon this trend, [Trust that I am all for people with disabilities getting some action in the media. GET IT, PEEPS!] I just find it a bit head-scratching...and misleading about how relationships are if one of the people has an illness.

Technically I am not dying, but I have a pretty shit-tastic disease, and I can affirm that these films are complete fiction. If anyone has ever been enraptured by my fragility and propensity for breathing treatments...I have not been aware. [Tangent: And I assure you if I was ever looked at like some kind of inspiration, a solid eye roll would be given.]

And I have never felt like I needed love to validate me...I mean sure dudes were never banging down my door and of course, it made me sad...but the whole savior complex in these movies is real gross, and kind of diminishes that the characters have anything else going on. Suddenly their love story revolves around the disease. Hmmm.. Do you know how much my boyfriend and I talk about MD. Barely ever. It just doesn't come up and its not something we dwell on. Of course, it affects things sometimes, but really it just is something we adapt around...not something that makes me feel invalid.

I know what you're saying...sad cry-fest love stories are not new. Love Story. Steel Magnolias. They all hinge on someone dying and leaving love behind or saying "To hell with death, here's life and I'm gonna do it on my terms!" [Tangent: Sorry. I mean oops. Spoiler Alert for movies that came out over 25 years ago.] But those movies have other story lines and the illness isn't the star of the show.  It is more of a supporting character that moves plot along. [Tangent: Also, for the record...I love both of those movies!]

Maybe I just question why this trend has exploded in the last few years. I feel like every young adult book or movie I see somehow revolves around a premise that one of the two parties is somehow sick or in a life or death situation [Tangent: Or mentally ill...or suicidal.]. It's very odd to me. There are other ways to throw complexities into a story than to reduce a person to a diagnosis and make them the saddest human on the planet.

As I wrote about in this blog post from 3 years ago, my favorite childhood author was Lurlene McDaniel who wrote such hits stories as "Baby Alicia Is Dying"; "She Died Too Young"; "Sixteen and Dying"; "For Better, For Worse, Forever" etc etc. [Tangent: I feel like the titles alone give you a pretty good idea of the content of these books. I probably don't need to explain that in each book a character died and she had a whole series of books revolving around make-a-wish scenarios.] I read every word she printed on paperback. You get the idea, I was a really morbid kid who loved to question mortality and it's effects, but I was 11, so my falling for the obvious devices seemed understandable, albeit a bit strange. Besides it was the early 90s, what else was I doing?

Now with the trailer for Everything Everything, I'm realizing this weird trend is here to stay. Now this is the norm. It seems Lurlene needs to start optioning her books for film. She is missing a huge opportunity.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cripple Concepts Giveaway and Review

OK, guys. I know this blog only has a probably 20% readership of people with disabilities, because let's face it, despite the tongue-in-cheek title, I often talk more about Netflix or reality TV than I do actual disability issues, but this one is for you 20%! [Tangent: YEP! Buckle up uprights, you're about to be left out for a post. You will be OK. Now you'll just know how I feel when I go to a building with stairs and no ramp! BOOM! Welcome to my twisted exercise in empathy! Just kidding, I'm not alienating you and maybe you should read this anyway, because you may think it's pretty cool. See, everyone is happy or maybe you can pass along to someone you know with a power chair!]

A few weeks before the holidays I was reading The Holiday Gift Guide from my friend Emily Ladau at Words I Wheel By, a gift guide of items produced by entreprenuers and artisans with disabilities, and saw this product that just blew my mind all over the laptop [Tangent: Sorry for that graphic visual, but it truly made my brain explode with happiness! As you know, I use my phone A LOT, and because my car is 90% transformer, the typical cigarette lighter charging port is blocked by super high tech beep boop machines that make my car move. This has been an ongoing frustration for the last 8 years. I have invested in external batteries and solar chargers over the years to use when I am on road trips or just not near a wall port. They work well enough, but are not ideal.]  The product from a company called Cripple Concepts is a simple little 5 inch USB charging port had the potential to make my life much less stressful, because it plugs easily into my chair's charging port thus I can charge on the go. [Tangent: WHERE WAS THIS WHEN I WENT TO DC AND HAD TO DUCK INTO EVERY CORNER STARBUCKS TO CHARGE MY PHONE WHILST SIGHTSEEING!]

I immediately forwarded this link to my mom and told her that was all I basically needed for Christmas. My own personal Santa obliged and I got it 2 months ago and love it so very much. It is so handy when I go to outdoor events, like when I went to last month's women's march, because I could simply plug my USB cable into it and go [Tangent: To be honest, my friends like it, too. I have become exceedingly popular at bars and events because my friends can just hand off their phone to me to charge and they don't have to be tethered to a wall]! I now just carry it wherever I go because it's tiny and easily fits into my purse. 
 My only real initial concern was that it would drain my chair's battery, and I wasn't about to make a Sophie's Choice every day of which battery was more crucial.  Good news! It draws less than 1.0A from the chair, which is very negligible. In layman's terms, I can get my battery from 0% to fully charged more than once and not even lose a full bar of wheelchair power. That's dark magic to me!

They also universally fit the standard 3 pin XLR type charge port on the chair or scooter, they convert 24V from the chair to 5V 3A (Whatever that means!).  Basically, if your charging port has three holes, you're good to go! Because you supply your own USB cord, it can easily work with any kind of phone (or ipad or ipod or anything really!).

 As I do when I love something a whole lot, I tell the person or company about it,  because doesn't everyone love to hear how great they are occasionally!?! I emailed Josh Winkler, the man behind Cripple Concepts [Tangent: And before you get all up in a tizzy about the use of the word cripple, understand Josh is a quadriplegic so is self-identifying. Per the website: "Love it or hate it, you won't forget it. The name Cripple Concepts was chosen to distinguish us from the companies run by able-bodied people, we are different and we are proud to be different. We understand some consider the word 'cripple' offensive, but we see it as empowering."] to explain how much I loved his product and how many pickles it had already helped me out of. Basically,  I wanted to tell him in non-creepy terms how badly I wanted to sing his praises from every possible mountaintop, even though I am fairly tone deaf. 

He was great and responsive and told me he was even tweaking the product to make it even better by adding a silicone ring to it. Together we decided to share this kind of tech bliss with two lucky winners and give the new and improved ones away! He also wanted to share that if people are tech inclined or handy that they can read the components used in the building process here, so you could make your own. [Tangent: That is over my head, so I just paid the $45! It WAS WORTH IT for my sanity!]

Entering a giveaway is easy, and if you have a chair- just enter! You'll love it, I promise! Plus, I have TWO and frankly only about 20% of my readers use the odds are ever in your favor. [Tangent: OK. I am getting thirsty and begging and quoting The Hunger Games, so I will stop and just show you how to enter already!]

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