The Only Living Boy In New York (2017) || Finding The Freshness

A series in which I watch movies classified as ‘rotten’ by Rotten Tomatoes and try to find their redeeming qualities.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33%

 

The Only Living Boy In New York tells the story of Thomas (Callum Turner), an aspiring writer, who discovers that his father (Pierce Brosnan) is having an affair with a beautiful woman named Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). After stalking Johanna for some time, Thomas begins his own affair with her until he realises that she is still seeing his father. When Thomas finds out that his father intends to marry Johanna, he tells him about their own affair, ending both of their relationships with her.

There are also a couple of side-plots: Thomas begins the movie in love with a girl named Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) who insists that they are just friends as she has a boyfriend. By the end of the movie, she has broken up with her boyfriend and is ready to date Thomas until she finds out that he slept with Johanna. Thomas’ neighbour, W.F. (Jeff Bridges), narrates the film and acts as a guide/mentor for Thomas from their initial meeting at the beginning of the film. Eventually Thomas discovers that W.F. is actually a successful writer and his biological father.

Despite the fantastic cast, doing their absolute best with a less-than-average script, this movie didn’t resonate with many people. The film reaches for a serious tone (when an argument could be made that it would be much better suited to a comedic caper) but lands on tedious instead. This seems like it shouldn’t be possible for a plot so full of potential, but every scene feels longer than the last one and the tight running time of 88 minutes feels like an eternity.

The characters are thinly-written caricatures, representing the rich white elite, and seem entirely removed from the reality of current-day New York. Even the main character is largely unlikable. He exudes rich, white, male privilege and this is never examined at any point in the film. Rather the audience is left to try and sympathise with a character whose worldview seems to be the height of entitlement.

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Written by Allan Loeb of Collateral Beauty (14% on Rotten Tomatoes) and The Space Between Us (16% on Rotten Tomatoes), this movie follows a similar pattern to the aforementioned movies in that it cuts a good trailer, promises an interesting concept, then ultimately falls flat and yet… it’s not terrible. This is my argument for it:

The Only Living Boy In New York isn’t about the boy – it’s about New York.

Thomas is self-centred and desperate for something interesting to happen to him because he believes that that’s the only way to be a writer. He is “the only living boy in New York” – we know this because: he says it in an actual line of dialogue; it’s displayed on the screen at the beginning of the movie; a song of the same name plays in the film; and, just in case that wasn’t clear enough, it is the title of a manuscript one of the characters writes.

Obviously, he’s not literally the only living boy in New York. He’s not even figuratively the only living boy in New York but that’s how he feels. Living in a big city, living in New York, you feel real and everybody else is just a part of the scenery. The city isn’t just a city, it’s an organism. It lives and it breathes and it encompasses everything and everyone around you. When somebody steals your taxi, or you miss your train, it feels like the entire city is against you and that’s the root of Thomas’ myopia. He is a by-product of being young in New York City.

This movie tries so hard to be serious and artistic and even if it falls short of its original goal, it had to try. This could never be a comedy. As a film that is not just set in New York but is in fact about New York, there is a certain amount of reverence and respect that must be paid. When you think about the NYC Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee movies, regardless of their subject matter or tone, the city is its own character and it’s not to be made fun of.

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In all of those famous movies, the city is a different character: New York is huge and multi-faceted. The Only Living Boy In New York tries to tap into the serious, literary side of the city. The characters may only be caricatures of this trope, but that is enough to clearly communicate the desired sentiment: New York is the home of the suffering artist.

Living within the constraints of this one characterisation of the city, the characters are removed from the realities of NYC today. The city today is multi-cultural and diverse in race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, and religion but this film doesn’t particularly care about the people. It is far more concerned about what the city represents and holds it to this idealised standard.

Truly, if you watch The Only Living Boy In New York without the sound on, it is undeniable that this is a love letter to the New York. Every single shot is beautiful – the movie was shot on film by Stuart Dryburgh – and every location has a certain amount of sheen to it. Even in Thomas’ run-down Lower East Side apartment, the production design feels very deliberate. Then the Upper West Side homes, elaborate weddings, and lavish publishing parties are jaw-droppingly beautiful. The movie presents Manhattan at it’s best: like what an outsider dreaming of moving to New York would imagine it to be.

The characters in this film are thinly-written, there’s no denying that, but they all have a unifying characteristic:  loneliness. They’re rich and beautiful and they seem to be living perfect lives. From the perspective of an audience they seem obtuse and that can feel grating but it’s also very honest. We all lose sight of how lucky we are. When it’s you, when you’re in it, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters and money can’t buy you a sense of fulfilment. As beautiful and enticing as the city is, it’s also very lonely.

The Only Living Boy In New York is a portrait of Manhattan from the perspective of a young writer. The city is beautiful and intelligent and full of possibility but equally, it’s hard and it’s cold and it is very lonely. The film shows how New York can make you feel alone and as much as you might hate it, you don’t want to leave.

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My Cinema Experience || The Long Read

I collect cinema tickets. I’ve been collecting cinema tickets since Summer of 2013 when I saw Iron Man 3 for the first time and couldn’t fathom not holding on to some sort of memento of that experience. Growing up, I went to church a lot – a Pentecostal church with clapping and dancing and people speaking in tongues – and every Sunday I would see people become so animated during the sermon. They would break down crying, fall to their knees, submit to full-body convulsions, and the sceptical part of my brain kind of thought that they were playing it up. Another much quieter part of my brain was in awe of the passion of it all. People were connecting with something so completely and so viscerally in a way that I couldn’t understand and had no frame of reference for. The closest I’ve ever come is when I visit the cinema.

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To be clear, I don’t fall down to my knees in the cinema and I definitely don’t clap. There is a very special, very specific place reserved in hell for people who clap in the cinema. They can’t hear you, asshole! But, I digress… I don’t generally have a physical reaction, but inside? I’ve never felt as deeply or as intensely as I do in the cinema. Every film experience is different but there is always a sacredness to it regardless of if I’m watching Moonlight or The Hangover.

When I look back on the movies I’ve seen, I don’t just think about the films themselves. I think about how I was feeling that day; the things that I did on either side of that trip to the cinema; what was on my mind. Yes, movies mean a lot to me – this blog is evidence of that – but the cinema means just as much. To explain exactly what it is about the cinema that I love so much, I’m going to have to break it into four parts.

 

The Darkness

Hello, darkness my old friend….

I love the dark. Although, I’m more Batman than Bane in the sense that I’ve learned to love the dark. There’s something about it that feels very liberating and calming. Even if it’s not the pitch blackness of the cinema, once the Sun starts to go down I feel more anonymous and, at the same time, more myself than I ever do in the light.

I can, and do, watch movies at home all the time. If I’m travelling long distances, I’ll even watch movies on my phone (9/10 wouldn’t recommend) but it’s not the same. I’m not about to wade into the streaming vs. cinema debate: you’re both pretty. This isn’t about superiority, it’s about what experience resonates with me more.

I’m distracted all the time. You notice what a terrible segue that was from the previous paragraph?  That’s my brain 24/7. If I’m watching an episode of Billions I’m probably also cooking dinner and checking Twitter and cleaning my flat. It’s hard for me to focus on any one thing at any given time and maybe that’s a product of the world we live in today or maybe it’s just who I am. I’d wager it was a mixture of both.

The cinema is my eye of the storm. It isn’t just another way for me to sit down and watch a movie – it is the only way that I am able to just sit down and watch a movie. There are no phone screens, there is no moving around or planning what I’m doing the next day. There is nothing but the film (and those pesky emergency exit signs but unless you’re Steve Jobs there’s not a lot to be done about that).

When I sit in the cinema and the lights begin to slowly dim, it feels like a form of therapy. I feel at peace and I feel relaxed and I feel like I have an excuse to not think. I’m being given permission to ignore the things that I should be doing and fully lose myself in what I am doing.

In the dark of the movie theatre, you feel almost as though you’re in a sensory deprivation tank. You don’t have to think about what you look like or what your hands are doing. The movie is all there is and you’re just experiencing it. It’s as though you’re not even there anymore. You’re not real – the film is real.

 

Familiarity

People talk about an internal compass that points home and I haven’t had one of those for the last few years. Life is inconsistent, and things are constantly changing but the cinema is a point of consistency, of familiarity. I can walk into any cinema in the country and the sounds and smells that I encounter are the same. There’s the smell of popcorn and the hum of slushy machines. There’s the soft, worn felt of the seats and the faint stickiness of the floors from years of spilled drinks. Cinemas are all the same in the best way possible.

Obviously, cinema ticket prices rise every year and if you’re not living in one of the metropolitan hubs of your country then your local cinema isn’t going to screen 90% of the releases for a given month. However, in the grand scheme of things, the cinema is for everyone.

Compared to the theatre, the opera, professional sports games, ballet, etc. the cinema is one of the few places left that you can go to see art that isn’t going to decimate your bank account. You don’t have to dress up, but you also don’t have to dress down: there are no specific guidelines for what you’re supposed to do or how you’re supposed to act (although I wouldn’t be against a ban on clapping, just saying).

I’ve been to a lot of different events where I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable because of my clothes, race, gender, age, etc. and as much as I tell myself that I have to right to be somewhere, it’s hard to shake the feeling of being unwanted. I’ve never felt unwanted or out of place in the cinema and that’s a special thing. As dumb as it might sound, that’s exactly what I think a home should be.

Hidden Figures

 

Stories

We exist as we do because of stories. Long before we even had books, we had stories and when climate change finally claims the Earth and there is but a handful of small human colonies dotted around the few inhabitable parts of the globe, we’ll still have stories.

As somebody who is very introverted and can struggle with social situations, it is often assumed that I don’t like people. In fairness, I’ve often said that I don’t like people, so I understand where the confusion comes from but that’s an oversimplification. I’m fascinated by people. I find people difficult because every person is just so much, and I don’t have the necessary social skills to navigate them. Stories help me to navigate.

Stories can be big, sprawling epics like Lord of the Rings, or they can be these focused, individual pieces like Before Sunrise. Clearly, the concept of storytelling isn’t unique to the cinema, or even the medium of film, but as I get older, focusing on one thing becomes more difficult. It’s harder to lose myself in a book; I’ll begin to daydream as I watch TV; I have to rewind podcasts multiple times because I started reading something and just stopped listening. In the cinema I can’t do any of that. I’m present and I’m transported in exactly the same way as I was when I was eight years old. When you go to the cinema, you are pulled into a story for two hours and you get to live in a different world, a different person for that time.

I think that when you really know somebody: their deepest desires and fears; how they think and feel; what drives them; it’s impossible not to love them. You may not agree with them, you might find elements of their personality entirely repugnant, but you understand them.

In real life, you’re lucky if you get to know one person in your entire life but in stories? In films? You can see a character’s life unfold before your eyes. You can see their highest moment and then 10 minutes later see their lowest (I’m looking at you Million Dollar Baby). Sitting there in the dark, you forge an intimacy with these characters and come out of it a better person.

There’s no downside to obtaining a wider perspective on the world we live in. I’m the sum of all the stories that I’ve absorbed over the last 21 years and I think that every film teaches us its own lessons.

 

The Credits

If it’s not a Marvel movie, I won’t typically sit through the credits – most people don’t. I’ll stay as long as the lights are down but once they’re up (something that seems to happen much more suddenly and jarringly than the gentle dimming at the start of the movie) it feels like a very clear message: “You don’t have to go home, but you sure as shit can’t stay here.”

Even if you do sit through the entirety of the credits and you try to read every name that scrolls past, you probably can’t. The production of one movie necessitates the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who will likely never be acknowledged for their contribution. The grips and PAs and VFX assistants of the world will get their pay check and maybe a few family members or friends will stay in the cinema to see their names scroll by but otherwise they will go unnoticed.

When you think about Avatar (for the sake of this example just pretend you’ve ever thought about Avatar since 2009) the names that pop into your head are probably James Cameron, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver… maybe even Sam Worthington – he plays that main character and I had to Google his name. The lack of cultural impact made by Avatar is mind-bending and I could talk about it for hours but that’s a whole other essay and I need to wrap this up. Actors, writers, and directors get all the glory and all the recognition, but can you imagine just how bad Avengers: Endgame (#DontSpoilTheEndgame) would look without genius VFX people. Even a less CGI-heavy film like Pride & Prejudice becomes trash without outstanding production design, costumes, location scouts, and choreography (that party scene is film perfection. I am willing to die on this hill: fight me).

Pride and Prejudice

When you watch a film at home on Netflix – this blog is (sadly) not sponsored by Netflix and I must remind you that other streaming services are available – as soon as the credits begin, Netflix starts ushering you into the next thing. Maybe that’s the same as the cinema lights but it feels worse to me. In the cinema you’re lazier and way more likely to just sit in it for a minute of two absorbing the movie you saw and letting the names wash over you. At least that’s what I do and when I do, I’m always struck by how impossible a feat every film is.

I love to read about the drama of trying to get films made. Salacious stories about on-set squabbles? A thousand times yes. Feed me stories about clashing directors and actors and I’m yours. But, in my own life, I find working on projects in groups of three trying. Working with hundreds of people and coming out of that experience with something beautiful is nothing short of a miracle. You can critique Bohemian Rhapsody for its editing and queer erasure (and I might even join you) but I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that it exists. Like, someone somewhere had an idea and then over the course of a few years, a few hundred people adopted that idea and made something.

As a society we love to celebrate the individual. Nothing is quite as attractive to write about as an individual who achieved amazing things. Even when it is a team effort we want to single somebody out and label them “the visionary” when the truth is, they couldn’t have done it on their own. The credits are a celebration of collaboration. A collaboration that, in itself, is far more impressive than a single person doing it all alone and that deserves to be celebrated on a big screen, with as many people as possible.

 

So that’s it: that’s why I love the cinema.

End of Hiatus

If you’re a Sherlock fan, you’re used to two-year, open-ended, hiatuses. Fortunately, this hiatus is over, and Geek Commentary is back with a new logo, new content, and a new structure.

Our ethos remains the same: celebrating TV, movies, and all the great content that they inspire. With that in mind, there are going to be some changes to the content on this site.

First of all, we’re saying goodbye to the bi-weekly news stories. They’re not fun to write and, at the end of the day, all the news stories posted here are essentially compilations of information from other, better-informed, sources which is not what this site is about. At all times, this site wants to be producing something new, fresh, and unique.

In that vein, there are going to be a lot more analytical and opinion pieces. I’m very excited about this and I hope you will be too. I’m leaning back from anything remotely “Buzzfeed-y” and “clickbaity” which should free up more time to write the longer, more nuanced pieces that I want to.

Finally, and most importantly, no more negativity. I love TV and film – love it. I honestly believe that there is always something good to be said about a piece of art and this blog is going to find it. That doesn’t mean I can’t give honest criticism (there will be plenty of that) but it does mean that there’s going to be a lot more praise than take-downs. More than ever, the world needs a bit more light.

Sherlock Finale: It Wasn’t That Bad

The season 4 finale of Sherlock aired on Sunday night and it wasn’t exactly a resounding success. Firstly, Russian hackers leaked the episode online before its release resulting in the smallest audience in the show’s seven-year history. Secondly, a large number of people were already feeling let down by this season and didn’t embrace the latest instalment with quite as much gusto as usual. Finally, the finale wasn’t that great an episode.

It hurts me to say it – I adore the show – but the finale simply wasn’t of the quality that I have come to expect of Sherlock. However, it wasn’t that bad.

If you haven’t seen the episode yet, I suggest that you close this page now because the following will contain spoilers.

Previous seasons of Sherlock have always had a big, bad villain at the end. Somebody that tests Sherlock and really allows him to stretch those clever, brain muscles. Normally, the entire season would be leading up to that but the writers called an audible this year and changed up the structure.

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Unfortunately, people don’t tend to embrace change.

The first episode served to clear up some of the plot holes from the previous season and then they killed off John’s wife. I loved the second episode – it felt very old-school Sherlock and included Toby Jones’ villain that had been marketed as the season’s big nemesis. However, it turned out that a previously unknown Holmes sibling was to be Sherlock’s final foe.

A lot of unbelievable things happen in Sherlock but by virtue of excellent writing, you find yourself completely believing it. At the end of the second episode I was completely ready to believe that Sherlock had a secret sister but the third episode simply did not lay out a convincing argument for it at all.

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The sister herself wasn’t a particularly good villain, either. A mixture of casual cruelty and a campness that paled in the wake of Moriarty, made her seem like a throwaway villain. The question of how she escaped her island prison and wreaked havoc in the Holmes boys’ lives was never really answered, and it turned out that she only ever really wanted a friend.

It wasn’t a normal episode of Sherlock. However, I don’t think that it was supposed to be. Everything about this episode seemed like the closing of a book to me. The creators, Moffat and Gatiss, have reported that they have a fifth season plotted but have not yet decided whether or not to produce it.

My opinion? Don’t. As a strange, final episode, The Final Problem works. John and Sherlock are raising a baby; Sherlock is more human than ever; all is well at 221B. Euros Holmes felt like the show was grasping and I don’t think that there needs to be a further four and half hours of Sherlock made it that manner.

What did you think about the final episode of the season? Should they continues to produce episodes of Sherlock? Let me know in the comments.

Reasons To Be Excited In 2017

By all accounts, 2016 was a rough year. Fortunately, 2017 promises to be a lot better – or at the very least that’s what people are saying and blind faith is currently preferable to painful realism.

At the very least, in our geeky, little bubble, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the forthcoming year – so many, in fact, that narrowing it down to 17 was a challenge but that is what has happened. Here are 17 things to get excited about this year.

Wonder Woman (2 June)

This is the first time that I’ve truly been excited for a project by the DCEU and I’m really hoping that they don’t screw it up. Just give us a female hero and let her be as bad-ass as she was originally written to be.

Beauty & The Beast (17 March)

Disney classic, music from my childhood, Emma Watson: what isn’t there to love about this movie? Even Gaston looks good (in a he-seems-to-be-a-more-well-rounded-character kind of way, don’t worry – it looks like he’s still a total bastard).

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Sense8 (5 May)

After the Christmas special at the end of December, I’m absolutely buzzing for this new season. Sense8 is hope and light but it’s also painful and terribly, terribly sad at times. Essentially, it’s the best thing being broadcast at the moment.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (7 July)

Sure, it’s the third reboot of this hero’s franchise but he’s still my favourite and I still can’t wait to see him again.

Cars 3 (14 July)

Never in a million years would I have thought that any member of the Cars franchise would be making it onto a list like this but… never say never. The first teaser trailer got me hooked and now I absolutely have to see it.

Coco (8 December)

I can’t talk about Cars 3 and miss out the other Pixar release for this year. Not a lot of people are talking about Coco at the moment but it’s about the Mexican Day of the Dead and that alone has me very interested. Plus, it’s Pixar – it’s going to be fantastic.

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Orange Is The New Black, Season 5 (June)

The last two episodes of the most recent season of Orange Is The New Black were viewed behind a curtain of tears which is basically the highest praise from me. They ended on a cliffhanger that I couldn’t stop thinking about for days. Dammit, now I’m thinking about it again.

Star Trek: Discovery (May)

I am a part of a new generation of Star Trek fans that jumped onboard after the Pine movies. That huge market is probably one of the main reasons that they decided to launch a new series and I am very grateful for that.

The Oscars (26/2)

Th glitz, the glamour, the terrible jokes: I live for this award ceremony. It’s the one night of the year that I can successfully pull an all-nighter so that I can watch the entire show all the way from England.

Stranger Things (TBC)

I don’t know where they’re going to go from the first season but I am more than happy to find out.

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Justice League (17 November)

My hopes for this movie are slightly lower than those for Wonder Woman but I’m trying to stay optimistic. Most of the characters seem great (with the exception of Batfleck) and if Warner Bros. can get their act together, this could be something amazing.

Hamilton, London (21/11)

I’ve adored this musical for the last year and it is finally coming to London! I won’t be able to afford tickets but at least I’ll be able to walk past the theatre…

Iron Fist (17 March)

Judging by Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, this show is going to be amazing. What’s more, it’s the final piece of the puzzle before we get to…

The Defenders (TBC)

I love what Marvel are doing with their Netflix series and this seems like it’s going to be beyond amazing.

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Star Wars VIII (15 December)

My appreciation for the Star Wars franchise is an even more recent development than my enjoyment of Star Trek. For the first time, I will be waiting with anticipation alongside the other fanboys and fangirls.

Fast & Furious 8 (14 April)

I’m not going to pretend that these movies mean anything more to me than 2 hours of ridiculous stunts and cheesy one-liners but sometimes the world needs crazy stunts and cheesy one-liners.

Logan (2 March)

Is it weird that I feel a little bit scared of this movie? Like I know it’s going to be brilliant but I think that if Logan dies, a little part of my heart may also die.

So those are the 17 things that I am most looking forward to in 2017.

What are you looking forward to? Is there anything on my list that has you pointedly unenthused? Let me know in the comments.

The Circle || Trailer Review

Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega: it was always going to be difficult for me to not like this film.

Based on this trailer, The Circle is about Big Brother and privacy and freedom. It is dealing with huge themes that are becoming more and more relevant in our society every day. More importantly, it looks like it is dealing with these themes in a smart and compelling way. After watching the trailer, I can’t wait to see what happens.

Unlike so many recent trailers, The Circle does not give away the entire plot of the film – a feat that has to be commended when compared to its contemporaries.

This trailer creates a sense of anticipation and urgency but maintains its veil of mystery and that’s why I can’t wait to see more about this film.

What did you think of the trailer? Are you excited about this film? Let me know in the comments.

Alternative Christmas Movies

There are so many Christmas movies on television now and I love that. I am all for a cheesy, heart-warming, festive film but sometimes it gets a little bit too saccharine sweet. If you need to break up some of that unrelenting cheer then I have some films that still feel Christmassy but aren’t what first pops to mind when you hear ‘Christmas movie’.

(1) The Harry Potter Series

Image result for harry potterThe Harry Potter series feels Christmassy. It has been pointed out to me on many occasions that the films span the course of an entire school year so my assessment may have some flaws but I don’t care: Harry Potter is a Christmas thing. Maybe it’s the magic or the over-arching theme of hope… Either way, it’s always a nice thing to watch in December.

(2) Rent

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What do you mean the story about a group of Bohemians suffering from AIDs in New York at the turn of the century isn’t festive? You’re not festive! Besides, Rent is a musical and that adds… infinite Christmas points.

(3) Iron Man 3

Image result for iron man 3Watching Iron Man 3 when it was released in April was surreal. It tried hard to push a Christmas theme, that seemed even more bizarre as a large portion of the film took place in California where it was permanently sunny. Fortunately, we get to re-watch whenever we want and I would suggest now as the perfect time of year.

(4) The Perks of Being A Wallflower

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I won’t lie – this is likely on this list just because I only ever watch it in December but hey, if you feel like crying into your turkey…

What other non-Christmas movies do you watch in December? Let me know in the comments.