Tone-Deaf (2019) – Make Allegory Great Again

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

This year I had the distinct pleasure of going to the Sydney Underground Film Festival, not as press but purely for fun because I genuinely love a film festival that’s dedicated to the weirder side of cinema. This is the stuff that probably would never see a mainstream theatrical release unless we were having a particularly slow period of releases and cinemas got desperate. During this festival I saw 11 films over 3 days and so, between mainstream movie reviews, I’ll be dropping these for a while to share my views on films you might want to track down if you can find them… because dammit, I watched all of them, you’re damn right I’m getting the most that I possibly can out of the experience. Let’s start with the first film I saw at the festival, Tone-Deaf.

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Serial Mom (1994) – Mommy Dearest

We live in a time where crime re-enactment shows are back and bigger than ever. With hit TV series like American Crime Story, films like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile or even hit podcasts like Serial, we can’t get enough of stories about murderers and the crimes they committed. This obsession has been around for years but it really hit the big time in the 90s when the O.J. Simpson murder trial became must-see-TV and effectively took the True Crime genre into the stratosphere. Of course, whenever there’s a genre this popular it will inevitably get a few people parodying it. We’ve all seen a thousand various parodies of Making a Murderer, Netflix ended up just making an official parody of their own hit series with American Vandal. It’s an easy genre to make fun of but there was one movie that beat them all to the punch, possibly one of the earliest to parody this genre right before its big O.J. related explosion… the cult comedy Serial Mom

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The Banana Splits Movie (2019) – Five Nights At Fleegle’s

Released: 4th September
Seen: 6th September

One of the great things about the horror genre is its ability to take something innocent and, with minimal alterations, turn it into an icon of terror. Santa Claus was never a scary creation but put an axe in his hand and you have the poster for Silent Night, Deadly Night. No one used to associate hockey masks with horror until one unlucky day when a boy named Jason put one on before heading out to Camp Crystal Lake. That’s the power of horror; innocent images can be given malevolent meaning just by a change in context. So, if this idea works for well-known images like Santa or the hockey mask, the question is if it can work for a bunch of iconic animal costumes from a 60s variety show. The answer is yes, but only as a novelty.

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To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) – Wig Snatched

Nowadays, we are living in one of the high points of drag entering the mainstream. Through sheer force of will, a little show called RuPaul’s Drag Race has slowly grown to the point where we are just months away from entering a period where we will have roughly 5 different variations of the Drag Race formula over a 12 month timeframe, along with more cult shows like Dragula being social media darlings. In movies, however, drag queens don’t tend to be a big feature. Sure, in the last few years they appeared in A Star Is Born and the indie circuit popped out a few surprises but in terms of mainstream films embracing drag queens as a major element of the narrative, we haven’t had that since the last 90s when a trilogy of films presented Drag Queens in all their glory. There was the iconic comedy of The Birdcage (with… oh god, the Genie and Timon, gosh darn I can’t remember their real names), before that, there was the Australian classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and before both of them, there was the underrated gem with the glorious name of To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

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Drunk Parents (2019) – Pass The Wine

Released: 12th June
Seen: 2nd September

Trigger Warning: there is talk about pedophillia and general child abuse in this review… because that stuff is in the movie, so there is both a warning for this review and the movie itself. Fun.

From an audience’s perspective, there is nothing quite as painful as an unfunny comedy. A bad horror movie can be amusing in its own special way, a bad drama is often just accidentally hilarious but a bad comedy is the essence of death. With a bad comedy, the jokes don’t work so there’s no reason to laugh and since that’s the main thing that these movies go for, there’s nothing of value left. A comedy can fail in many ways, a joke just not landing or being too tasteless to be funny or even just by being so poorly edited that any potential comedic timing is rendered moot… anyway, here’s a review of another bad comedy that had potential that got wasted.

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Murder Mystery (2019) – Whodumbit?

Released: 14th June
Seen: 25th August

The murder mystery genre has been kind of slow lately, the last major film in the genre being the Murder on the Orient Express way back in 2017. It’s always been a pretty fascinating genre, a large scale whodunit where someone is murdered and we follow the investigation into who the killer is. Often these movies would maybe take place in one location with everyone staying put so they could figure out who the killer was without having it spread. It’s also a genre that’s ripe for parody, as films like Murder by Death or Clue have proven how the genre can be taken to create some genuinely great comedy… and then there’s Murder Mystery, the store brand version of a comedy-mystery movie with all the ingredients and none of the flavour.

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A Dog’s Journey (2019) – Dog Gone

Released: 15th August
Seen: 24th August

Today I officially pass a milestone, one I’m genuinely proud of. This is my 100th review for 2019, specifically my 100th review of a current film that’s in cinemas right now. If we include recent throwback reviews, editorials and the Drag Race stuff, the number would be higher but doing 100 written reviews of films from this year feels pretty big, pretty special. It’s the kind of thing that one celebrates by adjusting their schedule and making sure the 100th film is in some way relevant to this blog and my history as a reviewer. Luckily for me, such a film came out. In the first year of this blog I produced a list of the worst films of 2017 and at the very top of that list was a little film called A Dog’s Purpose. I will contend that this film is one of the worst I’ve ever seen and I legitimately loathe everything about it. I also hate its spinoff that came out recently and now we’re at the official sequel, A Dog’s Journey and I am gleeful to inform you that I don’t hate it… hate implies feelings, and this film doesn’t deserve that kind of reaction.

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Sextuplets (2019) – More Like Suckstuplets

Released: 16th August
Seen: 23rd August

In ancient Persia, there was a method of execution known as Scaphism. It’s one of the most creative methods of execution ever created. First, you take two boats of identical shape and place the victim inside one of them, leaving a spot for their head to stick out the end. You put the other boat on top, creating a box that floats, and feed the victim as much food as you can. Then honey and milk is forced down their throat and poured over their head. Soon, their entire head was covered in flies and other assorted bugs, then the milk would work through their digestive system and they would begin to have severe diarrhoea that would fill the boat. They would float around for weeks, slowly being eaten alive by the flies and the bugs that got attracted by the boat full of excrement, one of the most elaborate torturous painful methods of execution known to man… anyway, I saw Sextuplets and now I know how the people in the boat felt.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) – Hooray for Hollywood

Released: 14th August
Seen: 16th August

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the 9th film by Quentin Tarantino, so possibly his second last if he keeps to the idea of retiring after 10. For this film, Quentin decided to ask one very simple question that would end up creating possibly the most controlled film of his incredible career… what if the Manson Family had gone to the house right next door to Sharon Tate instead. It’s another in Quentin’s series of “Historical Revisionism” movies, along with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained but I think this might be the best version of that kind of story that Quentin’s ever done.

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Late Night (2019) – Great Night

Released: 8th August
Seen: 11th August

Let’s be honest, late-night network talk shows are a bit of a boys’ club right now. Just for a minute, sit and think about all the female hosts of an American late-night talk show that you can come up with. My list includes Joan Rivers and ends there because there haven’t been any that can be named because there are none that are really known. I can name at least three late-night network talk shows hosted by a guy named Jim but one hosted by a woman? I got nothing. Heck, if I expand out from network I can really only throw in Chelsea Handler, Kathy Griffin and Busy Phillips and that’s if I rack my brain and count shows that aren’t on the air anymore. So to see a movie in theatres that tackles this issue head-on really brought a smile to my face, and the fact that the film is actually really good made the smile so much bigger.

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