Over the Rainbow


In this warehouse is stored the Ark of the Covenant.

(2017) Documentary (1091Lara Anderson, Dr. Susan Clancy, Karen de la Camere, Jeffrey Augustine, Barrett Brown, Shane Clark, Sarah Seltzer, Nathan Tompkins, Joke Reedor, David Gartrell, Bill Franks, Christopher Hartney, Janette Haugen. Directed by Jeffrey Peixoto

 

Some movies are easy enough to review. Others are “I can’t even.” This is one of them.

This documentary purports to be about fringe beliefs and it starts out that way, with psychologist Susan Clancy talking about clinical studies done on people claiming to be alien abductees who called the experience both the worst thing that ever happened to them as well as the best thing that ever happened to them. This non-sequitur moves from there to art dealers who handle Thomas Kincaid paintings – essentially the Muzak of art – who then start waxing poetic about the blessings of Scientology.

From there it goes into a fairly fawning look at the pseudo-religion/pseudo-science that feels more like propaganda than information, following several members who refer to founder L. Ron Hubbard as almost a God-like figure. It is somewhat disturbing in some ways.

Some time is spent in Clearwater, a town here in Florida which is largely owned by the Church of Scientology – whose members are made to be so busy they can’t even enjoy the beautiful beaches there. However, most of the interviewees live in Southern California and they are as pretentious a group of people you’ll ever see in the same movie. They use a lot of spiritual aphorisms and essentially come off as the stereotypes of SoCal nutjobs. Having grown up there, I can tell you that people like this do exist although they aren’t the norm; several times I felt my palm making the journey to my face, in violation of medical advice in this era of viral contagion.

The movie then takes a darker turn as Lara Anderson, who grew up in Scientology with her parents who were deeply into the cult, being reported by her own father to church officials for the sin of speaking to former members who left the Church to try and discover what prompted them to leave. A phone call with her indoctrinated Pa is shown here and it may very well be the most disturbing thing you see in the film.

I’m really not sure what Peixoto was attempting to do here, and I suspect neither was he. At the end of the day, this is scattered, poorly organized and scattershot. Is this a puff piece on Scientology, or a documentary showing the disturbing side of the cult? I don’t know; following the Anderson sequence the film returns to the art dealers lovingly demonstrating the pseudo-scientific “E-meters” which are used in “audits” to determine….oh, I don’t know what. And I don’t care. And neither will you.

REASONS TO SEE: A good opportunity to make fun of Southern Californians.
REASONS TO AVOID: At times feels a bit much like Scientology propaganda. Some of these nutjobs are outrageously pretentious.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some brief profanity as well as descriptions of violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: According to IMDb, this is the first film of any kind by Peixoto.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, Vimeo, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/15/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: My Scientology Movie
FINAL RATING: 4/10
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Extra Ordinary

Boogie Woogie


Boogie Woogie
But is it Art?

 

 

 

 

(2009) Drama (IFC) Gillian Anderson, Alan Cumming, Heather Graham, Danny Huston, Jack Huston, Christopher Lee, Joanna Lumley, Simon McBurney, Meredith Ostrom, Charlotte Rampling, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgard, Jaime Winstone. Directed by Duncan Ward

Art for art’s sake was the motto at the old MGM studio, and that might well be the battle cry for all artists. There is always a sense that art elevates the soul, but too many take that to mean that it elevates themselves as well.

 

Art Spindle (D. Huston) is a London art dealer with a distinct lack of scruples. He is charming to the max, but lethal if you get in between him and what he wants. What he wants at the moment is the Piet Mondrian painting “Boogie Woogie,” which is owned by an elderly gentleman named Alfred Rhinegold (Lee) who is reluctant to part with it, despite the urgings of his wife (Lumley) who knows that they are in dire financial straits.

 

Art’s assistants Beth Freemantle (Graham) and Paige Oppenheimer (Seyfried) are ambitious and have their own agendas. One of them is to service Bob Macclestone (Skarsgard), a wealthy client who has a roving eye not just for art but for the ladies as well (and in particular for Beth), much to the despair of his wife Jean (Anderson).

 

Meanwhile, up and coming performance artist Elaine (Winstone) has been making a name for herself with her tapes of her lesbian sexual encounters, much to the chagrin of Dewey (Cumming), her manager who has a huge crush on Elaine. For Elaine, Dewey is a means to an end and nothing more. Her cold-heartedness leads to tragedy which sends repercussions throughout the London art scene.

 

This is an ensemble piece along the lines of Robert Altman, albeit set in contemporary London. This is also based on a stage play which was set in 1990s New York. The subject for both is the hypocrisy and snobbishness of the art world. That is much like writing a movie about the corruption of politics. It’s not any great revelation after all.

 

Huston does a serviceable job in the type of role he typically excels at – the smarmy snake oil salesman type. He has as foils Graham and Seyfried, two of the most beautiful women in the world. Lumley, who made her career in “Absolutely Fabulous,” has a bittersweet role here, while veterans Rampling and Lee hold their own.

 

Unfortunately, the cast is given mostly one-dimensional portraits of people who are absolutely rotten to the core, so much so that you may smell decay in your soul for weeks afterwards just for having watched them. They’re the kind of people who operate from the same moral compass as Rupert Murdoch does.

 

The movie bounces from vignette to vignette without any discernable rhyme or reason. The flow of the movie is therefore choppy and at times it feels like you’re watching two or three movies spliced together with duct tape. The pace could have used some tweaking too – they could have easily cut 10-15 minutes out of the script and gotten away with it.

This is as talented a cast as you’re likely to assemble. It is also the biggest waste of talent you’re likely to see. It’s unfortunate too; an ensemble like this deserves better material. Sadly, this is a case of a script that doesn’t have too much to say about a subject that doesn’t require much.

 

WHY RENT THIS: There’s a lot of talent here.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A waste of talent. The movie feels like a collection of scenes strung together at random at times. Pacing could have used some tightening up.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a very sexual element here; lots of innuendo, graphic nudity and frank sexual discussions. There’s also foul language throughout as well as a smattering of drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Graham and Lee voiced the characters of opposing leaders in the videogame “Everquest 2.” Skarsgard and Seyfried also worked together in Mamma Mia!

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $47,527 on an unreported production budget; this didn’t even come close to making its money back.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: My Blueberry Nights