Friday, April 24, 2020


Now available, free of charge, on YouTube:

Planet of the Humans--Executive-produced by Michael Moore, this documentary was written and directed by Moore's crony Jeff Gibbs, who also stars. A longtime self-described tree-hugger, Gibbs arrives at some discouraging conclusions as he schleps around to environmental rallies and alternative energy sites, and explores the way corporations have co-opted his beloved movement. The film seeks to debunk the idea of "green energy" as a solution to climate change, and even to debunk the focus on mitigating climate change, rather than on modifying human behavior, as a solution to ecological catastrophe. Gibbs also runs biomass through the wood chipper, and sends such Green sacred cows as Michael Brune, Bill McKibben and even Al Gore to the figurative slaughterhouse.

It's structured much like one of Moore's snarky picaresques, but without Moore's self-deprecating, facetious persona or his eye for eccentricity. As a result of the earnest, plodding, monotone, hangdog manner of Gibbs, Planet of the Humans is often convincing and almost always wretchedly depressing. This may be just the sort of disillusioning we need if we want to rescue ourselves, but brace yourself: this movie, which includes footage of animals being butchered and otherwise in distress, isn't a lot of laughs, and the message of hope with which Gibbs concludes it feels half-hearted.

Friday, April 17, 2020


At this writing, my “Friday Flicks” column, online at Phoenix Magazine, has been put on pause until further notice. Before the pause, however, I had already seen…

Selah and the Spades—A near-obligatory element of high school comedies and dramas is the breakdown, by a veteran student to a newcomer, of the school’s various cliques and factions. This visually polished, well-acted drama, the feature debut of writer-director Tayarisha Poe, doesn’t bother to try to incorporate this scene into the fabric of the film; it opens with narration breaking down the various groups that supply the illicit needs of students at Haldwell, an elite Pennsylvania prep school.
The title crew, led by tiny, beautiful, iron-willed Selah (Lovie Simone), peddles drugs, especially pills, to the students. The film involves her shifting relations with her sidekick Maxxie (Jharrel Jerome) and new girl Paloma (Celeste O’Connor), who Selah presses into service as her protégé. Poe imbues the film with an ominous, oppressive atmosphere and an almost dreamlike stylization.
The actors play it very earnestly—especially Simone, who touchingly lets us see the vulnerability and terror that underlie Selah's steeliness—and I couldn't decide whether the movie, available today on Amazon Prime, was taking itself seriously or doing a deadpan spoof of the standard teen-movie tropes. But the final moments gave it an unexpected emotional payoff by avoiding either obvious melodrama or unconvincing platitude. Selah and the Spades is a chilly, slightly uneven, ultimately impressive piece of work.

Monday, April 6, 2020


Hope everybody is having a happy, healthy, socially distant April. Check out my account, online at Phoenix Magazine, of going to the movies in just about the only way still you still can here in the Valley, at West Wind Drive-In in Glendale... see Sonic the Hedgehog.

You can also check out my April "Four Corners" column, though I can't say whether any of the eateries discussed therein is currently open for carry out or delivery.

Stay well everybody!