The Special Shelf: Now Apocalypse AND Confessions of a Trickbaby

A little-seen cult classic road movie and a new vision from Gregg Araki pop up on ‘The Special Shelf’

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NOW APOCALYPSE

Now Apocalypse posterSociety finally caught up to Gregg Araki. He’s been making films for almost thirty years, hewing a throughline of jubilant hornitude, alternating layers of teflon irony and the deepest sincerity, and uncovering malignant power structures.

And with the cosmic sexpocalypses that started with 1996’s Nowhere and reached full bloom with 2010’s Kaboom, it’s as if he’s found the perfect means to express his singular vision for the universe—one that feels not so much accurate as correct. With each passing day, as things grow more and more bonkers in real life, we realize that, across the gulf of time, Araki saw the tone of now, preparing us for it every step of the way. Now Apocalypse brings it to us.

Ulysses (Avan Jogia) is one of those beautiful naïfs whose lack of guile and boundless sex drive proliferates in Araki’s work. He’s kind, concerned, and having very weird dreams about protean reptile sex-beasts and a coming cosmic explosion. His roommate Ford (Beau Mirchoff, who steals just about every scene he’s in with gusto and perfect comic timing) is a fledgling screenwriter whose slow ride to fame seems tied to his mysterious girlfriend Séverine (Roxane Mesquida, from the problematic Catherine Breillat’s equally problematic Fat Girl) and her super-secret government job as a scientist with incredible outfits.

And then there’s Carly (Kelli Berglund), who works as a camgirl in order to maintain her dignity auditioning throughout the Hollywood machine. They’re a fascinating bunch, well-equipped to handle the pansexual SciFi sprawl of social media, political insanity, and planet-shattering orgasms that Araki and co-writer Karley Sciortino have come up with.

It’s appointment television with a sense of anything goes, and its liberal attitudes toward nudity, joy, and controlled substances contrast nicely with its restrained attitude toward violence. If you’ve been looking for a show that’s as horny as it is smart (and that works nicely in the half-hour idiom), Now Apocalypse is essential.

 

FREEWAY II: CONFESSIONS OF A TRICKBABY

Freeway 2 Confessions of a Trickbaby coverBarely released at the end of the ‘90s, and with its DVD long out of print and going for insane prices on the secondary market, Matthew Bright’s film Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby spent twenty years lurking around the corners of podcasts and filesharing services as a grungy whatsit with some notable stars, before newcomers Dark Force Entertainment did a proper restoration and have now released it, properly, into the world.

The first Freeway, with its heatstroke and crystal meth take on Little Red Riding Hood, helped launch Reese Witherspoon from child star to more adult roles. Confessions of a Trickbaby, a sequel in name and theme only, uses Hansel and Gretel as its foundation, and finds in star Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll, Orange is the New Black) a similarly iconic and fearless turn.

Crystal “White Girl” Van Meter (Lyonne), bulimic and belligerent, finds herself staring at a twenty-five year prison sentence for trying to sell some crack rocks pilfered from her otherwise-occupied mother. Fortunately, between her and that quarter-century cage is Angela “Cyclona” Garcia (Maria Celedonio), a lifer with heaps of secrets and a genuine fondness for Crystal. So they break out from their intermediate medical facility and head to Cyclona’s childhood refuge, a mysterious nun named Sister Gomez (Vincent Gallo, in as troubling a concept as you might expect) who tends a mission for runaway children.

Along the way there’s a lot of murder, riffing on mythology, vomiting, Veruca Salt jams, and exploration of sexual boundaries. Despite all the grotesquery (think Desperate Living meets America’s Most Wanted), it’s a fascinating exploration of sexual fluidity, women in love, and what happens when you’re not afraid to get really out there narratively. This is very much a product of its time, and there are moments that clang, disrupting the wild spell this unique film more often than not casts. As beautiful as it is gross, Confessions of a Trickbaby is a remarkable film that dares the viewer to hate it, even as it wins over even the most depraved of hearts.

 

Now Apocalypse premieres on Starz on March 10. Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby is available on blu-ray from Dark Force Entertainment

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