An Inner Child’s Guide to Roald Dahl’s Best Films for His 100th Birthday

Growing up, Roald Dahl’s books and movies were some of our favorites. Witches and peaches and everything in between, he had a way with imagination even as an adult. From ages 1 to 100, we can appreciate the treasured classics he created.

Today would be the children’s book author’s 100th birthday. Make it a marathon and celebrate with these four classics:

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Willy Wonka 3

What child hasn’t watched this one in awe? An excursion through a factory of magic candy is the ultimate fantasy. We all wished for a golden ticket in our candy bar wrapper long before we checked the mail for our invitation to Hogwarts. And while the Tim Burton remake with Johnny Depp was a success, there’s no denying that Gene Wilder was born to play the part of Willy Wonka.

The Witches (1990)

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This one was slightly darker. It almost scarred us for life when we realized Anjelica Huston could ever be anything other than a supermodel. Another cautionary tale of chocolate, the thought of turning into mice was almost enough to swear it off for good… almost. It also featured Jane Horrocks before Absolutely Fabulous as a witch with a heart of gold.

Matilda (1996)

Matilda 2

This was basically the prequel to Carrie but with a much happier ending. Instead of burning down a school gym, she just puts some adults in their place and makes everyone happier. She also has fun with Cheerios in one of the best scenes from our childhood. It’s safe to say that most of us walked around pretending to have developed telekinesis after seeing this one.

James and the Giant Peach (1996)

Giant Peach

Another tale of neglectful adults, another Absolutely Fabulous cameo. If you ever wanted to run away as a child, this film made you want to run away in a giant peach with a ragtag gang of insects. It was the ultimate adventure with amazing animation while the world was still in awe of Toy Story.

Natasha Lyonne is So Mom in Carrie Brownstein’s Kenzo Film

Social media has taken over most of our lives but not quite like this. Carrie Brownstein’s new short film for Kenzo, The Realest Real depicts an all too literal version of social media in which your followers actually follow you around. Better yet, your social media fantasies can actually become reality.

In the fashion short, a young woman’s Instagram comment is taken a bit too seriously when Natasha Lyonne becomes her mom. Who wouldn’t want the indie actress as their matriarch? But perhaps the fantasy of Natasha is much better.

Watch The Realest Real below:

JT LeRoy: History’s Most Offensive Drag Act

“The transgender community wants to lynch you!” That provocative warning is blurted out on one of the many phone calls that writer Laura Albert secretly recorded while committing her infamous hoax as JT LeRoy. And no wonder. When Albert’s fraud was finally exposed (after she wrecked the credibility of several publications, book companies, a film studio—plus many gullible readers) the reaction was justifiably angry and strong—though it’s largely forgotten by now. (Editor’s Note: BlackBook was among the publications duped by Albert)

The new doc Author: The JT LeRoy Story brings back Albert’s hoax but leaves out the warning and the anger. It’s a peculiar and unacceptable attempt to rehabilitate a con-artist who exploited queer experience in order to fulfill the celebrity ambitions that began in creative writing classes and personal journals then morphed into active, visual deceptions: As Albert took on a pen name, her sister-in-law played the part in shadowy public appearances. On screen, Albert narrates her saga directly to the camera wearing punkish, sluttish leather as if auditioning to play a dominatrix.

Writer-director Jeff Feuerzeig tries hiding Albert’s dishonesty first by following her misleading guises and fanciful evasions instead of insisting on a fact-based biographical account. Feuerzeig is complicit in accepting Albert’s fantasies about adolescent identity, sexual dysfunction, gender confusion and emotional abuse. This routine has become the basis of many queer social appeals and political movements but the JT LeRoy figure was unserious about them.

Never an activist, always a fame-whore, Albert became the pet of allies in journalism and publishing who were susceptible to lurid tales about sex, transgression, and self-pity disguised as civil rights.

Posing in her writing as “a blond, blue-eyed boy that a man would love and want to fuck,” JT LeRoy made fools out of celebrities (from Dennis Cooper and Debbie Harry to Bono, Courtney Love, Billy Corgan, and numerous publishing industry mavens). Above all, she cheated anyone who wanted to believe, empathize and defend queer social casualties. This should make gay people think twice about having their struggles turned into fodder for politicians or any kind of media or “artistic” exploitation. The days of inspiration by the likes of Jean Genet, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg are over.

Feuerzeig joins Albert’s irresponsible enablers when his doc perpetuates confusion, at times by pretending that JT LeRoy (and other alter-egos) are real; he lets Albert read her fiction-as-autobiography in a phony Southern accent; or intercuts footage of her misadventures as if seeking to find comedy in a labyrinth of lies. He fails to investigate the subplot of sister-in-libel Savannah Knoops sexing both actor Michael Pitt and actress Asia Argento (who comply with the ruse), treating the low-life scam as if it’s a normal part of showbiz corruption or a transgender remake of Zelig—Woody Allen’s 1983 satire about a man who “wanted to assimilate like crazy.”

By indulging Albert’s sociopathic behavior, the doc makers are party to the most complicated misunderstandings of queer; indulging the most sordid, pathetic, self-serving behavior like Michael Moore, one of the defrauded celebs, collaborating with Maury Povich. I was writing at New York Press when one of the JT LeRoy career stunts became a cover story (a mash-note about actor Michael Pitt headlined “Pillow Lips” describing Albert’s entry into gay filmmaker Gus Van Sant’s clique). It’s bad enough that Albert deceived a reputable alternative press outlet, reducing it to what used to be called “the gutter press.” Anyone victimized by one of Albert’s salacious fantasies might be personally offended at how protective the doc is for allowing her continued self-justification: She alternately switches guises and perspectives throughout this screen test. It becomes a “scream test” when, as a final insult, Albert claims she has suffered body shaming and then blames her crimes on being molested by “Uncle George.”

Albert, Feuerzeig, and “JT LeRoy” contribute to the oppression that queer people suffer, reducing them to the most pathetic stereotypes. They make a mockery out of the travails of queer life yet still want to be pitied and envied as if their pretense was legitimate. More people than “the transgender community” should be enraged by this doc. It is a drag in the old-fashioned sense.

Author: The JT Leroy Story is out in theaters and available on demand now.

Elisabeth Moss & Boyd Holbrook are On the Run in ‘The Free World’

After years of serving as Don Draper’s secretary, Elisabeth Moss is proving herself as a leading lady. The indie actress has found success in films like The One I Love and High-Rise. Her latest role is that of a housewife on the run in The Free World.

When a recently released convict (Boyd Holbrook) attempts to get his life back together, he comes across a bruised and battered woman (Moss). After learning that she may have killed her abusive husband, he risks his freedom to help her outrun the law.

The Free World premieres September 23. Watch the trailer below:

In Bed With Netflix and Armond White

Foreplay: Practical Magic (1998)

Before they were Oscar winners, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman starred together as the Owen Sisters, two witches with bad mojo: Any man they fall in love with dies. This rom-com and detective-com adaptation of the Alice Hoffman novel became a popular hit, largely due to Bullock and Kidman’s Sisters-Doing-It-For-Themselves chemistry. Both are fetching—showing off feline comic wiles and kooky dance moves you can’t help smiling at—even when the gallows humor seems forced. This is a poor cousin to the witch-bitch trend that included The Witches of Eastwickand Hocus Pocus. Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest provide accomplished, amusing back-up but it’s the Bullock-Kidman duo that works like a charm—even if doesn’t exactly cast a spell.

Press Play: Hope Floats (1998)

Continue your Sandra Bullock weekend with a love story that finds Bullock at her most appealing. Despite being saddled with the name Birdie Pruitt (playing a divorcee and single mother who finds love again), Bullock keeps both her dignity and her amorous yearning afloat in the air like a master juggler of the popular audience’s emotions. Her co-stars are Cloud 9-ish, too, especially Birdee’s suitors (Harry Connick and Michael Pare—there’s real rapport with both of them). This film is only a trifle but its appeal stems largely from actor Forest Whitaker making his directorial debut and focusing on the performers’ likableness. The fantasy is enhanced by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel who, during a dance hall scene, makes the Texas environment radiant, wondrous and, yeah, romantic.

Playtime: Crash (2004)

Before her Oscar win for The Blind Side, Bullock took on her first serious role that you can take seriously. She doesn’t play nice, but as a rich Beverly Hills bigot in this cross-section drama about the crisis of American race relations, Bullock takes an amazing risk. Her character, Jean Cabot, survives a public calamity and explains the fear that makes her suspicious of people outside her class and that keeps her in a state of personal anxiety. Bullock enacts one of the most profound and controversial moments in a film that dares to explore race as a difficult human dilemma rather than can-we-all-get-along? feel-good sentimentality. This is do-gooder, public service movie making at its most obvious but Bullock makes it feel real.

Brie Larson is Doing a Movie That Looks Like One Big Shootout Scene

The first red band trailer for Free Fire, directed and cp-written by Ben Wheatley, is here, and the title appears to spot on. The movie follows a group of Boston arms dealers in the 70s whose gun sale one day goes awry. If the trailer is any indication, most of the movie is spent in a warehouse with people either shooting at each other or hiding from bullets.

The film stars Oscar winner Brie Larson, as well as Armie Hammer and Cillian Murphy, all of whom are shot at in the clip, and is executive produced by Martin Scorsese. With so many big names attached, we’re taking a leap of faith and trusting there’s a good reason for another film glorifying gun violence.

Watch the trailer below.

Free Fire is scheduled for release in March 2017.


In Bed With Netflix and Armond White

Foreplay: Babel (2006)

Never was a bad movie more aptly named. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s continent-hopping melodrama goes from Morroco to Mexico to Los Angeles to Japan to become an instant camp classic. He brings the news all peoples on Planet Earth have problems—basically, their inability to understand each other because they speak different languages. By languages, A.G.I. means insurmountable class, race and cultural differences. He abuses the Biblical Tower of Babel as a metaphor for globalization. Cate Blanchett plays an actressy tourist in North Africa who’s misfortune sets off the tragic domino effect. Brad Pitt can do nothing to stop the spreading misery, just accept the blame of being an American W.A.S.P. That leaves a supporting cast of Latin and Asian sufferers who beg for viewers’ pity. Pity is what rich snobs give to the contemptable and multi-Oscar-winner Inarritu is rich.


Press Play: True Grit (1969)

John Wayne–Hollywood’s Mr. America–finally got his Academy Award playing Rooster Cogburn, a Texas Ranger who helps orphan Kim Darby hunt for her father’s killer. It’s a typical Henry Hathaway western but Wayne gives it classic status through his signature sense of goodness and masculine realness. You can’t teach this is acting school; it’s proof of the physical and emotional authority that makes Wayne an ideal movie actor. Country singer Glenn Campbell as the ingénue sidekick contrasts youth to Wayne’s seasoned gravity but the trick is: Wayne’s uncanny personal humor. Booze-bag gunslinger Cogburn makes fools of anyone who underestimates American exceptionalism. That idea is so irresistible that even those hipster Coen Brothers couldn’t help re-making it (but only half as well).


Playtime: Jaws (1975)

This is your last chance to go teasing movie sharks before the Summer is over. Steven Spielberg’s classic scary movie is a combination action-thriller and action-comedy. It’s not the death-by-big-mechanical-teeth that’s thrilling and funny but Spielberg’s out-in-the-open toying with audience expectation and still surprising them through crack timing and awesome, looming imagery. This is the movie that made his name.Jaws begins with bloody subtlety; swims into character depth (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw in a macho competition); and with John Williams’ unforgettable score raising anxiety, it all climaxes with exhilaration. Summer may be ending but Jaws will entertain forever.


Chloë Sevigny Makes Directorial Debut with ‘Kitty’ Short

Although Chloë Sevigny has long held a spot in our cinephile hearts as an indie leading lady, her next role takes her behind the camera. She joins the ranks of Natalie Portman, Kirsten Dunst, and Rose McGowan as a renegade actress turned director in a male dominated industry. Sevigny makes her directorial debut with the short film, Kitty.

Based on a short story by Paul Bowles, the film is about a young girl named Kitty who appropriately begins to turn into a kitty. The first trailer reveals Kitty (Edie Yvonee), claws, whiskers, and all.

Having premiered at Cannes, Kitty will make its US debut at the New York Film Festival. Watch the trailer below:

Five of Our Favorite Gene Wilder Quotes

As Gene Wilder walks the silver stairway to heaven, let’s celebrate his amazing career with five of our favorite quotes from the entertainment legend:

From Willy Wonka:

“It’s all there, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole fizzy lifting drinks! You bumped into the ceiling which now has to be washed and sterilized, so you get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!”

On his neuroses:

“So my idea of neurotic is spending too much time trying to correct a wrong. When I feel that I’m doing that, then I snap out of it.”

From The Producers:

“What did you expect? Welcome, Sonny? Make yourself at home? Marry my daughter? You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons!”

On his late wife, Gilda Radner:

“I’m not so funny. Gilda [Gilda Radner] was funny. I’m funny on camera sometimes. In life, once in a while. Once in a while. But she was funny. She spent more time worrying about being liked than anything else.” 

In Young Frankenstein:

“Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven foot long, fifty four inch wide, gorilla? Is that what you’re telling me?!”

Wilder was known for his show stopping roles in films like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Producers. He received two Oscar nominations in his career, one for Producers and one for the screenplay he helped write for Young Frankenstein. He wrote, starred in, and directed a slew of other notable films, and picked up an Emmy for a guest appearance on Will and Grace. His artistic legacy will not be forgotten.

“It is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him,” said his wife Karen Boyer and his nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, in a joint statement on Tuesday.