Stephanie Kocer

Writer. Editor.

Why ‘The Dirt’ is Better Than ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Look. I’m only going to say this one more time: “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not a good movie. It gave little to no thought to Freddie’s real truth and it tried to convince us that “We Will Rock You” was written in the 80s. What a bunch of Hollywood bullshit.

It’s too bad, because Queen is one of the most important, influential rock bands of our time. They deserved better. Freddie deserved better. “Bohemian Rhapsody” deserved Nikki Sixx.

 

“The Dirt” dropped on Netflix on last week. It tells the story of the most legendary dirtbag band of all time: Motley Crue. Based on their 2001 memoir of the same name, “The Dirt” explores the Crue’s rise to fame in the early 80s, their hard-partying, drug use, and girls, girls, girls. And I’m happy to report that “The Dirt” is a far better biopic than “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

 

Now before I really get going into hair metal fangirl gush mode, let’s state the obvious. Queen was a far better, far more important band than Motley Crue in terms of influence, art, and their lasting affect on pop culture. Motley Crue has their triumphant moments (hello “Wild Side”), but their music was still just hair metal. Popular, of course. But more brawn than brains.

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Oscars 2019: What is Going On?

Some people make bets on horse races. Some people lose their minds over the World Series. I like talking about the Oscars. The Academy Awards are Hollywood’s biggest pat on the back and they’re ridiculous. I don’t know if I’ve seen an Oscars as ridiculous as this year’s. No host? Announcing they wouldn’t televise certain categories, only to take back that decision after people complained. Not to mention there’s no clear winner in like any category. It’s the wild west this year. So buckle up because I have a feeling it’s going to be a really bumpy night.

Here’s my attempt at some predictions:

Best Picture
Should Win: This is a tough one. Call me a sucker but I loved “A Star is Born” even with its flaws. And man, not enough people are talking about how great “BlacKkKlansman” is. And then there’s “Green Book,” the feel good choice that, even ridden with controversy, still seems to win a lot. But dear lord let it not be the flaming dumpster fire that is “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Will Win: “Black Panther,” because the Academy has a history of giving people what they want after enough complaints.

Actor in a Leading Role
Should Win: I’ve wrestled with this one all year. I love Christian Bale and his Dick Cheney was great, but I don’t think Bradley Cooper will ever have another performance like “A Star is Born.” Everyone has been talking about Gaga, but B. Coops outshines her in every way. I know he won’t win. But damn do I wish it for him.
Will Win: Rami Malek. Listen, playing Freddie is a hell of a task and no one could be expected to get it right. Rami came pretty close even if the movie as a whole sucked. What would have been better is if the movie had been a hard R so we could have seen the whole story. Maybe then he would deserve this one.

Actress in a Leading Role
Should Win: Gaga. I don’t want to hear your arguments because you’re wrong. She did what Barbra only dreamed of doing.
Will Win: Glen Close, because it’s time. Continue reading

Galentine’s Day

 

Today is February 13, the day before Valentine’s Day, otherwise known as Galentine’s Day thanks to forever perfect sitcom “Parks and Recreation.”  Those that know me know that I despise anything that has to do with Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t have to do with the fact that I happen to be single on Valentine’s Day this year, either. It’s just the simple idea that we’re told we need a separate holiday to tell someone we love them. Shouldn’t we love every day of the year, whether there be flowers and pointless stuffed animals?

Leslie Knope believed that Galentine’s Day was more important than the day that followed because it was a chance to celebrate the women in her life. So for the next two days I’ve decided to do the same. I’ve been blessed with an array of smart, sophisticated, badass ladies in my life who have been there during the hard times and laughed with me in the joyous moments. As you get older you get better at realizing you can pick and choose your adult friends. I’ve been able to choose wonderful female friends who give nothing but love and support. Real life isn’t “Mean Girls” and real women know that female friendship is as important as breathing.

 

For some reason Galentine’s Day always reminds me of my all-time favorite essay, Why Women Aren’t Funny by the late Christopher Hitchens. It ran in Vanity Fair in 2007 and was met with a lot of backlash from, well, women. Hitchens was famous for his opinionated essays and really liked to push people’s buttons (he wrote a book called God is Not Great, so there’s that). The essay essentially argues that men historically have had to be funny because that is what impresses women. On the other side, women just need to be pretty to attract men, so there is never a need for us to be funny. Hitchens argues that all our lives we’re told by our mothers and grandmothers to sit up straight, look nice, and never curse or tell a dirty joke because men don’t find that attractive. As a result, women aren’t ever expected to be truly funny and as a population, we would rather watch a man be funny than a woman.

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The Mule Review

Boy oh boy. Remember when Clint Eastwood said he wasn’t going to act in his movies anymore? Yeah, me neither.

“The Mule” is his latest film that depicts the real-life drug mule Leo Sharp and his years of running product back and forth from Mexico for the Sinaloa cartel. Sharp was 90 when he was caught and plead guilty to everything. It’s a pretty crazy story for anyone that say, has a grandparent. I couldn’t imagine either of my grandfathers doing something like that.

In the film, Sharp’s name is changed to Earl. We learn pretty much everything we need to know about him in the first 10 minutes of the film. He grows flowers for a living and is very proud of them; he’s estranged from his family because he’s a terrible father; and he’s a womanizer. A mixture of these things lead Earl to be broke. In a desperate move he uses a contact he makes at his granddaughter’s engagement party to help move drugs for the Sinaloa cartel. It’s meant to just be a one-time thing, but Earl makes a big chunk of change from the cartel for his services so he continues to make runs for them. Eventually DEA investigators get wind from a snitch that there’s a mule running drugs. Enter a disappointingly clean cut Bradley Cooper who is trying to catch Earl. The surprise on his face when he finally does catch the mule and finds out he’s a 90-year-old man, almost makes up for the fact that B. Coops is no longer a scruffy addict rocker. Continue reading

Mary Poppins Returns Review

True story: When I was little I carried a purple umbrella with me everywhere I went. You know, just in case an east wind blew up and wanted to carry me away. My strict mother did not let me watch television beyond PBS when I was little. Instead, if my brother and I wanted to watch something we would turn to our huge Disney VHS collection. When I wasn’t watching “The Lion King,” I was watching “Mary Poppins.” I wanted nothing more to be like Julie Andrews when I grew up. Seriously, from ages 3-10 my dream job was flying, magical nanny.

Mary Poppins is the original badass boss lady. She rides in on the wind, doesn’t take no for an answer, and takes children on elaborate adventures while also telling them it’s all nonsense. And then it’s all a lie because we know it’s the father she comes to save, not the children. She’s the coolest female character of all time. MP is the essence of the Disney magic that us 90s kids were lucky enough to grow up with.

The original “Mary Poppins” came out in 1964 and besides the magical story of national treasure Julie Andrews as a flying nanny, the film was famously plagued by drama, mainly stemming from Walt Disney’s battle to turn the MP books into a full Disney-fied film complete with dancing penguins and laughing uncles that also had a nine minute chimney sweep dance solo. P.L. Travers, the author or the books, was a strict little old British lady that didn’t want Disney to add his nonsense to her beloved stories and he didn’t really seem to listen. (Watch “Saving Mr. Banks” for the full perspective.) It seems odd then, that 54 years later Disney made a sequel.

“Mary Poppins Returns” is that sequel, with the lovely Emily Blunt stepping into the nanny shoes. The premise is somewhat similar to the original; Jane and Michael Banks are all grown up, Jane is a social advocate like her mother was and Michael works at the bank like his father. Micheal’s wife has recently died leaving him to care for their three young children. He’s also in some money trouble. If he can’t come up with the money from his father’s shares in the bank by the end of the movie he will lose his childhood home, where he and his children reside. Enter Mary Poppins, who ultimately comes to save the day and teach Michael (and the children) how to have joy again. Continue reading

Vice Review

I am in the middle of obsessing over three separate men this award season. I’m obsessed with Dick Cheney. Is that weird? Not as a politician, but just the idea that a man like him existed in American government. Ruthless? Sure. But isn’t that what makes him fascinating?

I am equal parts obsessed with Adam McKay, who may just be the smartest man in Hollywood. Despite kind of hating everything Will Ferrell has ever done besides “Elf,” McKay might just be my favorite director. Everything you need to know about how brilliant he is is in “The Big Short.” A movie about the 2008 financial crisis that somehow did the feat of explaining something millions of American’s don’t understand about finance and making it entertaining, engaging, and hilarious. There’s nothing I love more than a good piece of satire that actually teaches you something.

Lastly, I’m obsessed with Christian Bale. He may just be the greatest working actor we have right now, and he’s still somehow a bit underrated. He can do anything. He can change his appearance to look like anyone and change his voice to sound like any American. He’s an unlikely choice for anything, and yet, he’s perfect.

And so you can see why I’ve been so excited to see McKay’s “Vice.” Bale plays former Vice President Cheney from cradle to present as the film chronicles his rocky early 20s to his roles in various White House staffs and eventually how he became the most powerful VP of all time. “Vice” was a lot of things I wasn’t expecting. I learned things I didn’t know. I got angry when Cheney lacked sympathy for, well, anyone. I became obsessed with Lynn Cheney. I was pleasantly surprised by Tyler Perry. And I barely laughed.

Here’s what you need to know right off the bat with “Vice”: it might have been billed as a comedy and put into the comedy categories for the Golden Globes, but “Vice” is a straight biopic. Although it has occasional satire moments like early rolling credits, Shakespearean dialogue, and a hilarious George W. via the always wonderful Sam Rockwell, it’s a drama. This is a hard “Walk the Line”-style pic that tells you about a man’s life and how he comes to power. There’s not a lot of funny, despite what trailers may have told us. The places where I did laugh were when Bale would interrupt a scene to announce to the other characters that he had to go to the hospital again because he was having another heart attack. But even that is more dramatic than “haha” funny. Continue reading

The Favourite Review

Have you ever watched something and thought, “Huh. What was the point of all that?”

Upon first walking out of the theater that’s how I felt about “The Favourite,” the period piece about Queen Anne of England and the two women competing to be her right hand lady played by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. I saw the movie with my aunt and the only comment she had about it was that she hated it. I didn’t. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that I found kind of great about the movie.

“The Favourite” was one of those films you thought was going to end about six different times before it actually did. And really, the story was a bit unbelievable despite it sort of being true. Queen Anne was a real person of course, as were Weisz’s Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough and Stone’s Abigail Hill. Whether or not either one of them had a sexual relationship with the Queen is here nor there I suppose. The plot of “The Favourite” is pretty simple. Sarah and Anne have been friends since childhood and Sarah seems to be at Anne’s beckon call, serving as her head assistant of sorts. Anne, who suffers from gout and depression from losing 17 children, is a bit of a mess, understandably. Sarah is always there to calm her down and take care of her. She’s also there to carry out Anne’s politics when she doesn’t feel like facing parliament, which is a lot. As a result, Sarah often pushes her own political agenda and is constantly convincing Anne what shots to call in the war with France. Think of it as a 1700s version of Bush/Cheney. When Abigail arrives we find out that she’s Sarah’s cousin who is basically a slave because her father gambled her away when she was younger. She asks Sarah for a job and soon proves herself to be clever and likeable. Taylor Swift’s boyfriend has a thing for her and Jennifer Lawrence’s ex-boyfriend asks her to help him spy on whatever Sarah and Anne talk about in private. At first Abigail is very obedient and doesn’t cause trouble. But then she discovers that Sarah and Anne are also lovers and she ends up befriending the Queen and also becoming her lover in order to stay in good graces at the castle and not be kicked back out onto the street. Sarah becomes jealous and Abigail becomes more power hungry eventually leading the Queen to pick one of them and send the other away. I won’t spoil anything beyond that. Continue reading

What 25 Taught Me

 

Yesterday I turned 26. Why does that seem so old? I’m a year away from the age Kurt Cobain was when he died! Twenty-six. I must be a real adult now. My year of being 25 was a lot of things. I changed jobs. I moved states. I looked at grad schools. I broke up with someone. You know, your typical 25-year-old things. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to take all of those experiences and store them away for antidotes later. Everything when you’re in your 20s is a learning experience to become the person you’re supposed to be. I have no idea if I’m there yet, but I do know I learned a lot being 25 that’s prepared me for being 26.

So for fun I made a list of those things:

1) You can move states, apply for grad school, start a new job, and get a dog all at the same time and not die in the process!
2) Listen to your gut. It’s always right. About people, about situations. Never second guess yourself.
3) Never be afraid to ask for help.
4) Remove yourself from toxic people. You don’t have to be friends with people who suck.
5) An unhealthy environment will just make you unhealthy so get the hell out of there.
6) You can absolutely choose to be single and love it. Men in their 20s can be exhausting. Sometimes you need a break from them. Continue reading

Green Book Review

Every award season there is at least one film that deals with a 1960s relationship between a white person and a black person, in which the white person magically ends up saving their new black friend. These films usually make a lot of money and win a lot of awards. They also piss a lot of people off and for good reason.

“Green Book” staring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as the respective white and black characters is not necessarily one of those films. It’s the story of real life African American pianist Don Shirley as he embarks on a tour across the Deep South and the white Italian man, Tony Vallelonga, who he hires to drive him on the tour. Tony starts off as a rough guy from the Bronx but of course through many ups and downs with the very educated and cultured Don he learns great lessons about race and the human condition. When the credits roll we learn that the two men stayed friends until their deaths.

OK, maybe it is one of those movies.

“Green Book” has gotten the usual controversy that comes with these sort of films. The National Board of Review named it the year’s best film, but there’s also been a dozen think pieces on it’s whitewashing just this week alone. Don Shirley’s family released a statement saying the film was just Hollywood’s way of using a black man’s story to make money. Viggo Mortensen then made headlines when he used the “N” word at a press conference. Some have commented that his remarks have ruined his Oscar chances before they’ve really begun. Continue reading

A Star is Born Review

It’s taken me a long time to get to a place where I could write about “A Star is Born.” A lot of friends and family have asked why I haven’t done this review yet. I haven’t really had a good answer. How do you write about a film that already has an entire culture built around it?

For starters, I kept thinking about why we keep remaking this movie. Why? I mean, the Barbra Streisand one is SO awful. Not to mention all the self-serving, arrogant Streisand ego that fueled the movie (seriously look it up). And yet here we are again in 2018, this time with Bradley Cooper remaking the tale as old as time. This is the fourth time “A Star is Born” has come to the screen. And Judy Garland version (the best), the 2018 version comes in as a close second.

Where Barbra’s version failed, B. Coop’s version does a little better. It accurately depicted both addiction and  the mean machine of the music industry. For those of you that are still under a rock and don’t know, the “A Star is Born” formula is pretty simple. A rough actor and/or singer (depending on the era) meets a struggling but talented young female actress/singer. He helps her launch her career, only to see her star rising, while his falls. Oh yeah, and he’s an alcoholic and has a lot of internal struggles so he kills himself at the end of the movie. That’s not a spoiler. Because this movie has been remade four times, remember?

In Cooper’s version he plays Jackson Maine, a 40-something rocker who is still selling out venues to loyal fans, but struggles from alcoholism with a sprinkling of drug abuse offstage. He meets Lady Gaga’s Ally in a drag bar and the two immediately hit it off, he makes her awkwardly sing on stage with him, she starts to get recognized and gets a record deal, and eventually we’re told she’s one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Continue reading

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