DID YOU READ

“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” Reviewed

“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” Reviewed (photo)

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Can he recall his past lives, though?

There are two non sequiturs in “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” that could be read as windows into the title character’s past lives — a prologue about a lost bull and a later digression about a princess and an overly friendly catfish — but no attempt is made, beyond that mouthful of a title, to connect to them to the narrative at large. Such are the mysterious ways of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul: he makes a movie with an insanely specific title but doesn’t specify any further than that. As with any Weerasethakul film, audience interpretation and participation is essential. Nothing is spelled out, at least not in any language that people on this plane of existence can understand.

Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar) is an aging farmer and beekeeper living in the lush jungles of Northern Thailand. He’s suffering from kidney failure so his sister-in-law Jen and nephew Tong (Weerasethakul regulars Jenjira Pongpas and Sakda Kaewbuadee) come for a visit. As the days roll along, other ghostly visitors begin to arrive, including, in one bravura sequence, Boonmee’s dead wife Huay (Natthakarn Aphaiwonk) and his dead son Boonsong (Geerasak Kulhong), who appears in the form of a “monkey ghost.” In the light, Boonsong looks like a furry ape-man. In the dark, he takes on the form of a giant walking shadow with eerie, glowing red eyes. Rather than alarm, these guests are met with curiosity. Instead of running from terror from the beast with LEDs for eyeballs, Boonmee asks his son questions. Where have you been? How did you die? Why did you disappear? And why have you returned now? With Weerasethakul, there are always more questions than answers.

The film is not so much about what happens to Boonmee in these final days, as the mood those final days evoke. Weerasethakul — Joe to his friends and American journalists who butcher his name — invites us into a world that relies less on narrative logic than dream logic, where monkey ghosts joining you for a meal seems perfectly reasonable. His story bends the rules of time and space, and the film itself bears similarly transportive qualities. It takes so deep into the Thai jungle that we feel like we’re actually there. Many scenes are so dimly lit that it took me about four pages of notes to notice my pen had ran out of ink.

With “Uncle Boonmee,” Joe returns to some many of the tropes that have driven past works like “Tropical Malady” and “Syndromes and a Century,” including the contrast between the verdant natural world and the antiseptic environs of the modern city, the symbiotic relationship between man and nature, and the simultaneity of past and present. It’s not just past and present that merge; life and death are fused as well, as Boonmee’s past lives swirl through his current one, and the end of his story gives way to a fresh start for Jen and Tong. In a way, the callbacks to the director’s earlier work show Weerasethakul recalling his own past lives. “Uncle Boonmee” itself becomes the ultimate fusion of filmmaker’s past and present.

If this all sounds a bit pretentious well, frankly, at times it is. But nobody in modern cinema is better at crafting intoxicatingly enigmatic images than Weerasethakul. The introduction of Huay and Boonsong’s ghosts showcases a director using every tool of filmmaking, from acting to lighting to sound to montage to mise en scene, with total and complete control. That scene is perfect. The stillness, the silence between the characters is almost overwhelming. It is the quietest horror movie you’ve ever seen. Or maybe the quietest fantasy comedy you’ve ever seen. Or maybe both.

The rest of the movie similarly defies description. The image of monkey ghosts, their brake light glare cutting through the murk of the jungle, staring down the barrel of the lens, is terrifying in some moments and comforting in others. Some scenes, as when Boonmee hugs his dead wife’s ghost — literally comforting himself with the memory of days past — are heartbreakingly sad. Others, like the one with the princess who regains her youth and her sexual mojo from a horny magical catfish, are hysterical. “Uncle Boonmee” is totally uncategorizable. The only genre this movie belongs to is the funky, freaky, fascinating films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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