Sunday, April 13, 2008

Netflix Doc Double Punch

Super High Me



I always feel guilty seeing a movie like this on the big screen. The production company is "Red Envelope Entertainment," which is Netflix's outfit - basically a guarantee that what you've got is best watched on the computer or TV. There's just no reason to pay extra money to see the non-existent handheld cinematography. This goes double for amateurishly videotaped, hastily edited docu-comedies.

Ahh, docu-comedies. Almost every documentary now is a docu-comedy, post Michael Moore. Of course, this is a pot comedy docu-comedy. So it's okay if you take the sloppiness as a given. Maybe getting stoned first would help.

The pot-specific comedy (all of it) IS funny, though not really as much as Doug Benson's stand-up act on any given day. Benson once had a pretty funny, casual comedians-on-the-movies podcast for a while. The scenes excerpted from his performances were the best by far. Today's alternative stand-up scene is very pot-fueled, West Coast stoner style.

It'll make you laugh, but be warned, the docu-comedy in question contains "serious" moments that bring everything to a screeching halt. Scenes of medical marijuana protesters waving their signs at cops with no warrant to raid their "dispensary."

This is where the Michael Moore influence slips its greasy fingers in. The movie should be funny, or it should be a serious examination of something because the two elements are anathema to each other (unless you're as morally frivolous as Moore.) I've seen this a thousand times in student film documentary shorts - here's the part where we make you laugh, now an awkward shift to the part where you nod your head in seriousness...

What we have is a comedy, shot as a documentary, and since it's a documentary, there has to be some soapboxing. Welp, sorry, my passion for justice hasn't been stirred by handheld footage of well-off suburbanites lazily holding bad signs halfway above their heads and chanting. (Can we acknowledge that chanting has jumped the shark as a force of cultural change, yet?)

Netflix it and fast forward through the parts that try to make you take a movie called "Super High Me" seriously.

A much better disc to Netflix, currently distributed stateside by Red Envelope Entertainment is a documentary one would think to be funny...and is, occasionally...but even also even sadder than you'd expect.



The Great Happiness Space is a peek inside the Japanese world of "host boys," male geishas for girls with the money.

This one of the best documentaries in years!

The boys are in their 20s, mostly long-haired and feathered up like boy band members. They work at a bar, essentially. The women come in to be with these charmers and get charmed into buying more drinks. Like Hooters. There are apparently several hundred of these bars but we only see the one.

The boys also hook. They stand on the sidewalk and chat with each and every little darling they meet. There's a scene where a rookie host boy is told he'll have a month's training, but the director doesn't follow that thread. I think if this were an American film, it would've, because as evidenced by the success of The Game, the males of my post-boomer generation are in an obsessive panic about their lack of manhood.

One host boy says he's whatever the girl wants him to be. Funny, intense, moody, straight-up chivalrous, crazy...whatever. That's what the women are there for, and if/when any woman actually has sex with her favorite host boy crush...that's the last time they'll ever see that host boy. Such is the difference in male/female brain calibration. The host boys are always leading them on, teasing them with the prospect that if they stick around the club long enough, they might fall in love.

Which leads to the most shocking thing about the movie: many if not all of the girls who pay for the company of the host boys have fallen into prostitution to afford it.

Let me repeat that: regular female patrons of charming boys they do not have intercourse with turn to having intercourse with patrons of their own so that they can afford to be charmed.

As much as I think host boy clubs could go over gangbusters anywhere outside Japan, the virtually casual indifference with which the interviewed women discuss how they get the extra money to finance their obsession may be endemic of societies with deep seated misogyny.

Amongst the fascinating character studies, The Great Happiness Space is a unique angle on how profoundly detached and lonely relations between men and women have become.

You must see this movie.

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