Friday, May 15, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Make no mistake, this is HER movie.
"Masterpiece" doesn't even begin to describe it.

When extremely enthusiastic buzz for Mad Max: Fury Road started leaking after its first press screenings last weekend, I didn't give those early whispers much weight. As a rule, I try not to pay attention to other film reviews before I write my own so as to not have my opinion clouded, and in this case, if I'm being honest, I had already figured there was going to be a strong George-Miller-fanboy element that would need to be factored in to account for all of the glowing reviews coming from mostly (95%, I calculated) male critics.

I had also figured that affection for the existing Mad Max films would bleed over into this reboot of sorts (with Miller back in the director's chair and Tom Hardy taking over Mel Gibson's role as "Mad" Max Rockatansky). Here's the part where I admit to having never seen any of those movies. What can I say? I was an 11-year-old girl obsessed with Madonna and The Goonies when the third film (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) came out, and for whatever reason just never felt motivated to rent the trilogy in the decades since. They seemed like testosterone-fueled "guy movies" to me. And my general dislike of Mel Gibson didn't help.

I considered catching up before seeing Fury Road, but ultimately didn't. My reasoning: in addition to most other critics being male, nearly all of them have seen the original trilogy, so maybe it would be more interesting if I reported from a totally different perspective.

But as it turns out, my gender and complete lack of familiarity with George Miller's previous films didn't even matter in the end. I'm here to assure you that you don't need to know anything about the other Mad Max installments to have your mind completely blown by Fury Road. I walked out of the theater contemplating that it might just be the best film I've ever seen, ever. (Not my favorite, but the best. There's a difference.)

That's attractive
From Fury Road's very first moments, I was hooked. There stood poor Max, totally alone in the vast desert of post-apocalyptic Australia, hearing voices and hallucinating. He has been on the run for years, trying to survive in a cruel world that is nothing but sand for as far as the eye can see, while also failing to shake off disturbing visions of his family members and loved ones blaming him for their deaths.

Soon he has bigger things to worry about, though, because he gets captured by a gang of War Boys—brainwashed, chalk-covered, wild-eyed members of a feral army that worships King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in 1979's Mad Max). After a heart-pounding escape-attempt sequence that, in retrospect, serves as a remarkably tame appetizer for what's to come, Max finds himself strung upside down and serving as a blood donor for a weakened War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

We are introduced to Immortan Joe as he showers his starving, filthy and tumored masses with a stingy taste of the drinking water he's been pumping up from the earth and hoarding. But soon after this display of arrogance and power, he discovers that Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron)—who was supposed to be leading a crew of War Boys on a fuel run—has stolen Joe's five (!) wives and gone rogue. The wheezy, masked ruler promises glory to whomever brings Furiosa to justice, so Nux decides he needs to strap his blood bank (Max) to the front of a vehicle and join the chase.

Cool guys JUMP away from explosions
And it really is a chase. "It" being the majority of the two-hour film. It is a chase that puts to shame all other cinematic chases. All of them. It is a chase that will leave you astounded by its relentlessness, its creativity and its beauty. I've simply never seen anything like it—many parts of the Joe vs. Furiosa land race reminded me of acrobatic and carefully choreographed Cirque du Soleil performances, but even that description doesn't really do it. (Maybe because those performances usually lack spearings, stabbings, rammings and explosions.)

From the increased frame-rate that makes everything appear jumpy and hyper-real, to the electric-guitar and drum-heavy score (by Junkie XL) that's cleverly embedded into the action, to the glorious wide shots of the desert chase courtesy of cinematographer John Seale—you can't help but wonder how in the hell Miller pulled this off, especially when there doesn't seem to be that much obvious CGI. Fury Road raises the bar so high I can't imagine it being met for years to come. Let's just say it reinforced my belief that superhero movies have been taking the easy and expected way out for quite a while now. No action movie I can remember holds a candle to Fury Road. No action movie I can remember should even be classified as an action movie now that Fury Road exists. It's a game-changer.

Those eyes thought
Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris wrote the screenplay, which is very light on dialogue. I suppose that could've been a problem if Hardy and Theron weren't masters at conveying such a range of thoughts and emotions through their expressions. And truth be told, it kind of bugged me when any characters did speak; the slang and accents and levels of sanity varied so drastically among them, it started to shatter the illusion that this awful world was real. I also thought it was kind of odd that Max looked so normal compared to all of the freaks around him. Shame on me for assuming the distant dystopian future could never abide a few good-looking dudes.

Much ado has been made about the film's feminist or female empowerment themes, but I didn't walk out of the theater with any such thoughts in my head. The person who's had enough of Immortan Joe's bullshit happens to be female, and she also happens to kick ass. A lot of the people who end up helping her happen to be ass-kicking females as well. But to me this isn't a story of men versus women or men effing up the world and women having to save it, it's a story of how a small group of people with not much more than their convictions and determination might possibly change things. It's a story about hope. It just takes a while to realize that after you've been holding your breath in amazement for two hours.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Give It Away Give It Away Give It Away Now

As I explained in yesterday's post, I've had some extra time over the past few weeks. My schedule will also be slightly less jam-packed between now and our vacation next Friday, and I have big plans to continue my rare productive streak.

What a great idea, huh?
One of the biggest things I accomplished so far was pulling together a ton—and I do mean a ton—of clothes, purses and toiletries for a few different charities my mom volunteers for. My parents were here a few weekends ago and my mom asked if I had any purses I no longer wanted because she was working with a group called Handbags of Hope. This awesome organization pulls together purses filled with various toiletries for women in shelters or who have fled dangerous situations and took absolutely no possessions with them. (There are many nonprofits like this one around the country, by the way... and hint hint.)

My mom asked the right person. Not only did I have several purses wasting away in my closet purgatory, but I had over a dozen of those random makeup bags that you get "free" with your purchase at various makeup counters. These things were seriously multiplying on my bathroom shelves, and I was thrilled to clear them out and know they'd be going to someone who actually needed them.

And the toiletries? Oh lord, don't even get me started. This is a little embarrassing, but I clearly have some sort of kleptomaniac blood running through my veins because every time I stay at a hotel, I take all of the toiletries home. All of those mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouthwash, body gel, soap—you name it. And we travel a lot. So over the years I accumulated literally hundreds of bottles, boxes and packets of various toiletries. My reasoning was that we have a lot of people stay with us and that it would be nice to offer our guests a selection of bathroom amenities to choose from. But at this point someone could stay with us for five years straight and not run out of shampoo. It was ridiculous.

So I spent a few hours over the course of that weekend going through my bathroom closets, looking under the sinks and rummaging through every other random place I've squirreled this stuff away and came up with several big grocery bags full of loot for my mom to take back with her. Now I wish I would've weighed all of it because it was insane! All that's left now are a few small baskets for each of our guest rooms that look something like this:

Lint brush & extra toothbrushes supplied by me. All else, um, supplied by hotels around the world.

 I think our visitors are gonna survive AND still be so fresh and so clean when they leave our place.

Next up was the biggest task yet: cleaning out my clothes closets, since my mom mentioned there were other groups she worked with that were holding clothing drives.

I've been freelancing from home since 2007, yet for some reason I still kept all of my very nice suits I wore for The Man, along with a ton of high heels and more businessy stuff that I haven't touched for years. I just never had the time—even on weekends—to go through it all and decide what I should give to charity and what I should keep. But now I finally had a huge motivation to do it: I had a few hours to spare because my parents were watching Desmond all weekend and they were going to be nice enough to actually haul everything to the various nonprofits for me and get me the tax receipts I need. I HAD to get it done.

I went crazy paring down my closets. It felt so, so good. I kept my three favorite suits, but all other outfits only relevant to The Man went bye-bye. As did sweaters I hadn't worn in at least two seasons, pants that didn't fit anymore, shoes that were uncomfortable, pajamas I'd forgotten about, and so on.

We piled it all into my parents' SUV and FILLED IT. We filled an SUV with clothes, purses and toiletries!?!?

Behold the back seat

Behold the way way back

We gave away that much stuff... and my husband still needs to rummage through his closets! We're going to have so much extra room around here, and we can feel extra-good about it. Words can't describe the relief I felt at getting this done.

I hope I've inspired you to do the same if you've been feeling like you need a good spring cleaning. Now is the time! 'Cause it's spring—duh!

- e 

Monday, May 11, 2015


Come at me

It's been a while since I've posted, and this time I actually have a good excuse—or several good excuses, as it were. Two of them can't be shared publicly right now, so I'll have to keep you in suspense on those for a bit longer. But one update I can talk about is that—after 6.5 years of writing movie reviews, blog posts and social media musings—I am no longer freelancing for Redbox. It's only been a few weeks since I stopped working for them, so I'm not even sure it's completely sunk in to me yet. I was a contractor for Redbox longer than I had a "real job" anywhere else, so I guess the adjustment is going to take some time.

I had four months to prepare for my last day, but clearly change is harder than I'd like to admit because I didn't get off my butt and proactively try to secure another film reviewing gig like I should've. And now because of the other stuff going on that I can't share just yet, it probably doesn't make sense for me to try and find a more permanent critic post until the fall. So you can expect to see more movie reviews here on According to e in the meantime, starting this week.

Britney would say I'm lucky
As I was stressing out about how I was going to replace the income I've lost from Redbox, another wonderful opportunity fell into my lap, much like the Redbox job did back in 2008. I must've done something damn cool in a past life for this type of thing to happen to me so many times. Or maybe it's just really good luck?

My new gig will start in a few months and is still social media and writing-centric, but it's not really public-facing—meaning that I won't be sharing links of things I've written. So my hope is to eventually find a way to balance the new client work and my other client work, start reviewing films for a new outlet and also post frequently on this site in order to keep the ol' creative expression flowing.

Now that my personal update is out of the way, I'll be back with commentary on totally random topics starting tomorrow . . . until I leave for Ireland and Northern Ireland next Friday. Westeros, here I come!

- e