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REVIEW: How To Talk To Girls At Parties

By Eric Hillis,

originally published: 05/26/2018

REVIEW: How To Talk To Girls At Parties

‘Punk’s not dead, it just smells that way!” So goes the old joke at the expense of that short-lived but impactful cultural movement that captured the imaginations of teenagers in the New York and London of 1977. Fifteen minutes into John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story we begin to get a whiff as pungent as the rotting corpse of Sid Vicious. This, folks, is a stinker!

Mitchell takes us back to the British capital in the summer of ‘77, one of those culturally pivotal years, much like 1963, when change is in the air and rubbish lies in the streets. Enn (Alex Sharp) is a snotty-nosed punk who hangs out with his obnoxious mates, penning a punk fanzine, attending sweaty gigs in basements, and of course, attempting and failing to get laid.

Enn’s luck changes when he finds himself at a party in a large squat that houses a mysterious tribe of latex garbed aliens, whom the lads dismiss as being from California due to their propensity for yoga and strange mantra warbling. One of the aliens, Zan, takes the form of a teenage girl (Elle Fanning), and wouldn’t you know, grubby little Enn is immediately smitten. Zan runs away from her fellow aliens and begins to explore Earth, or at least the town of Croydon, with the obliging Enn.

Mitchell came to prominence in the ‘90s with his stage musical and subsequent film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and HTTTGAP plays largely like a musical that someone has edited out all the song and dance numbers. Characters often line up as though they’re about to break into a choreographed routine, and an embracing of the inherent campness of the musical genre would have made the cloying tweeness of Mitchell’s film somewhat more bearable.

Like a Monty Python skit that’s far too worried about ensuring the audience gets the joke, Mitchell’s take on Gaiman’s story goes out of its way to be odd, but in the most cynical and manufactured of fashion. “Isn’t this all just absolutely crazy?” the film practically screams in our ears at intervals. Err, no actually - it’s rather dull. Despite its barrage of color and microwavable weirdness, it’s a boil-in-the-bag cult movie with a cardboard aftertaste.

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Mitchell’s cult clout has enabled him to rope in Hollywood stars of the magnitude of Fanning and Nicole Kidman, who delivers arguably the most embarrassing performance of her career as an aging punk queen - I’m not sure how you can be an aging punk in 1977, when the movement is barely a year old, but let’s not quibble. Elsewhere Ruth Wilson plays a rubberclad alien with an expression on her face that suggests she wants to bludgeon her agent.

Period recreation isn’t exactly HTTTGAP’s saving grace either, with very middle class actors unconvincing as working class oiks and the film taking place in an urban London so underpopulated it resembles the set of The Omega Man (in reality, the streets of 1977 London probably had more in common with Soylent Green).

REVIEW: How To Talk To Girls At Parties

What’s most irritating about Mitchell’s film is how it arrogantly expects us to embrace and root for its teenage male protagonist, simply because he’s a bit misunderstood and dopey eyed. Fanning’s innocent extra terrestrial is another example of the tired ‘born sexy yesterday’ trope, an Encino Man who’s willing to indulge in snogging and hand jobs. Were the teenage girls of ‘70s London so off-putting that an alien is the better option for a young man looking for love and a fumble?

How To Talk To Girls At Parties - 1  star out of 5

Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell; Starring: Alex Sharp, Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson

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2018 Westfield International Film Festival To Take Place September 20-23
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Anybody can go to a movie theater to watch a film, but the Westfield International Film Festival is bringing movies to the mansion with its sixth season at the James Ward Mansion in downtown Westfield from September 20 - 23, 2018!  The festival will span a four day weekend and will include Q&A sessions with actors and filmmakers, networking opportunities, and red carpet parties.
JCTC FILM Premiers DEKA-LOG, New Series Depicting Contemporary Urban Life
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- A new anthology web-series by an up and coming, Jersey City-based filmmaker, premiers at Merseles Studios on August 23rd when Jersey City Theater Center presents DEKA-LOG: a Finding Me story.  Doors are at 6:30pm, screening at 7:00pm.  Admission is $10.
​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents a trio of ghostly silent films paired with the original historic orchestral scores on Saturday, October 27 at 3:00pm. Travel back to the early 1900s to cheer and hiss with Buster Keaton in The Haunted House (1921), Laurel and Hardy in Habeus Corpus (1928), and Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916). Between the films, enjoy the rollicking rhythms of the early 20th century as played by The Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, featuring favorites by Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and more! Fun for the whole family!
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The 36th Bi-annual New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick from September 14 - October 26.  The festival showcases new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries through over 30 film screenings. The Festival will run on select Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The festival is presented by Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies.
​​​​​​​Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center To Hold Free Screening of "MILK"
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center will present a free screening of MILK (2015) on Wednesday, August 29th at 10:30am at Montclair Film’s Cinema505. The screening, presented in celebration of World Breastfeeding Month, seeks to educate and promote breastfeeding among nursing and expecting mothers.

Newark Black Film Festival
​​​​​​​Richard Wesley is a playwright, screenwriter, and professor of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has been involved with the Newark Black Film Festival for well over three decades. A Newark native, he’s currently the Chairperson of the festival’s Selection Committee. The NBFF is currently in full swing, with a screening of Cadillac Records tomorrow, and the biennial Paul Robeson Awards for young filmmakers taking place on Wednesday, August 8. This season’s program also features the films Selma, I Called Him Morgan, The Art of the Journey, Coco, and Hidden Figures. We recently spoke with Wesley about the history and mission of the Newark Black Film Festival, the role it plays in the lives of young filmmakers, and a chance encounter with Sidney Poitier that launched him into the film industry.
REVIEW: "Skyscraper"
Over the last half century, the concept of blockbuster spectacle has flipped on its head. In the 1960s, big budget spectacle meant Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle without the aid of a stunt double, or Julie Andrews screaming her lungs out on a Swiss mountainside. Science fiction was relegated to Saturday morning screenings of b-movies, which parents would use to relieve themselves of their tykes while they went shopping. George Lucas  changed all that a decade later, and now sci-fi and fantasy dominates the multiplex, while the only movies featuring practical stunts are those low budget straight to VOD action movies designed to showcase the athleticism of former MMA fighters.
REVIEW: "BlacKkKlansman"
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman isn’t a remake of Ted V. Mikels’ infamous 1966 grindhouse staple. Rather it’s based on true events (“Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit,” reads the title card, because Lee is apparently a 12-year-old boy), the story of how rookie cop Ron Stallworth (played here in a star-making turn from John David Washington, son of Denzel) became a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978, despite being an African-American.
REVIEW: "When I Sing"
Most of the world learned of Linda Chorney in 2012 when her name was listed as one of the Grammy nominees for Best Americana Album. Her film, When I Sing, not only follows her rise from obscurity to the Grammy Awards, it goes much further.  It’s a love story between a die hard Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan; a spotlight on how indie artists survive on the road; and a deeply, revealing portrait of how the media and the music industry turned what could have been a wonderful Cinderella story into a very hurtful experience.
REVIEW: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"
I recall hearing an anecdote concerning a society of pranksters in 1970s London who would take trips en masse to the cinema, only to walk out when or if the title of the movie in question was spoken by a character. That lot would get their money’s worth with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as it’s not until the closing minutes that a returning original cast member (in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo) informs us that we’re now living in a “Jurassic World.” It’s the sort of cringeworthy moment that would normally cause me to groan, but I was so broken down by the laziness and ineptitude of this fifth installment in the franchise that I couldn’t even muster a sigh by that late point.

Event calendar
Monday, Aug 20, 2018


Asbury Park Industry Ball 2018 @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

FINDING FEEBAS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Alex Laurenzi Quartet @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm


Eighth Grade @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm

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