NOPE: A predator is never tamed.

“What aisle is the UFO repellant on?”

SPOILER WARNING!

Most of the smarter movies about UFOs/UAPs ask questions like where do they come from, how do they think, how different from us are they. Questions that we humans cannot answer.

Jordan Peele’s new film, Nope, centers around an alien encounter, but like his previous work, this film about the frightening and unfamiliar asks a question we can answer, but just don’t want to: with flames raging everywhere, why have we all become moths?

One of Peele’s many, many talents is that he’s never on a soapbox with the messaging in his work. He’s in it with us, complicit, goading our fractious responses. No character in Nope (and no one watching it) is made to care about how advanced this extraterrestrial is, what technology it uses, how we might communicate with it. The alien is positioned very simply – as a dangerous phenomenon. And the human beings on screen and off are also positioned simply – those who care more about the danger and those who care more about the phenomenon.

The protagonist, OJ Haywood, Jr (Daniel Kaluuya), a horse trainer for films and commercials, is the former. He quickly understands all that needs to be understood about the alien invader – it is an animalistic predator claiming territory.

Everyone around him, however, is the equivalent of a tornado chaser out for thrill, fame or profit, which Peele makes clear by having his alien hide in an ominous cloud and suck up its prey in a dusty swirl.

One of these opportunists is OJ’s estranged sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer) who returns to the family’s ranch after their father, OJ Sr, is killed in a freak accident, which we later learn was the alien. Peele has a great way of playing with the kind of narrative devices necessary to advancing a horror/suspense plot. We overhear a news report of missing hikers, immediately followed by pocket change, keys and other innocuous human detritus raining from the sky. This could have been played just as the tease it is, but Peele then takes devious pleasure in visualizing the urban myth that if you drop a coin from the Empire State Building it would go right through someone’s skull by the time it gets to the street.

Emerald has bounced in from the big city, seeming to care nothing about her father’s death by high-velocity nickel, and rides OJ about his inability to keep the family business afloat. After she catches a glimpse of the alien, she can think only of the fame and fortune a photo of it would bring. No matter how frightened she is by ever-more-dangerous encounters, her motivation remains to capture the monster on film.

This compulsion to turn trauma into personal narrative finds its most striking presentation in another character OJ must deal with, Jupe (Steven Yeun). Jupe was a child actor on a 90’s-era sitcom called Gordy’s Home, and Nope opens on a flashback to the set of the sitcom just after Gordy the chimpanzee has gone berserk and horrifically attacked the other actors. Jupe was the only one who escaped unharmed, and he now owns an Old West-themed tourist attraction near OJs ranch. Jupe has a secret room in his office, a shrine not to his childhood stardom or the show itself, but specifically to the traumatic incident. The scene of Jupe giving OJ and Emerald a tour of the shrine is the most biting satire in the film, and a fascinating comment not only on how an individual can manipulate their own trauma, but how pop culture can: of all the artifacts on display – including the blood-stained shoe of his co-star whose face was chewed off –  Jupe holds the most reverence for Chris Kattan’s performance as Gordy in an SNL skit which made a joke of the terrible event.

The incident also left Jupe with the feeling that he has a special rapport with the wild and unpredictable. He’s been buying horses from the financially-strapped OJ and secretly feeding them to the alien predator, prepping for a grand spectacle during which he will expose the alien to an audience. The level of blind arrogance it takes to believe one can train a completely unknowable beast has been an aspect of human civilization since there was human civilization. Yet modern man has continued to level up, from task animals to circuses to nature itself, and now to a beast not even of this world. And instead of imploring a collective “Nope! This one is too dangerous!” we instead encourage the arrogance, our cameras ready.

Movies are more predictable beasts, though, so Jupe learns the same lesson as Siegfried and Roy did with their tiger, finally meeting the fate he escaped – and subsequently became obsessed with – when he was a child.

One of the final lines in the film comes from a Hollywood cinematographer lured to the scene by Emerald, who flatters him into believing he is the only one who can properly document the alien. Before rushing into the jaws of death for the money shot, he says “we don’t deserve the impossible.”

Why? Because we can’t simply stand back and wonder at the mysterious anymore. We must poke it and prod it and try to make it entertain us. Compete to see who will be the first to expose it, turn the wonder into a saleable commodity.

There will always be something that is impossible for humanity. And humanity will never accept that.

DR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS: A red witch takes America to the dark side

“Yes, Senator Collins, Roe v Wade is established precedent.”

Let’s pretend Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness isn’t just a bunch of lazy writers using the multiverse concept because they’ve run out of original villains, plots and character motivations. Let’s pretend it’s a clever, incisive metaphor for America’s turn to the dark side. C’mon, it’ll be fun!

Quick note before we begin: If you want to see just how to make the multiverse thing truly clever, original and not abused by cynical writers who’ve lost any sense of joy, go see Everything Everywhere All at Once.


Now, despite the title, Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is actually the sequel to WandaVision, that terribly clever streaming series in which our favorite witch Wanda hypnotizes an entire town because she’s sad her boyfriend died. We always wondered why the universe’s most powerful witch didn’t put her revisionist red bubble over the entire US of A instead of just Florida, I mean Westview.

Well, once she realized enough people prefer to be hypnotized, she cast off that annoying veil of reason and has embraced her inner Conservative. After going off-grid for intense bible study, she’s now convinced that she must cause the deaths of thousands of people for the sake of children who don’t exist.

With Captain America written off as a pretty-boy celeb attending pro-choice demonstrations, we have only Dr Strange to stop Wanda. So we’re doomed, because if there’s any Marvel character you could imagine as a former MD turned hapless Democratic senator from New England, it’s Dr Strange. I mean, they literally give a piece of fabric more personality than this man.

As per usual, Dr Strangle-me-please is saddled with a pesky young person, so in this on-the-nose metaphor he gets a La-teen-a named America Chavez. Can the New America help him beat back Wanda’s deadly red blasts? It doesn’t look likely, considering that all America can do is open sparkly blue portals for Strange to run away from Wanda.

This America has two moms and wears a pride pin, but Marvel makes sure these LGBTQ+ details are made insignificant enough that they’d be overlooked by censors in Saudi Arabia, whose oil Dr Strange needs to conjure his fizzy golden portals to zen retreats, because when things get rough, meditate!

How does the multiverse fit in all this? It’s just used for some ‘wacky’ distraction as Strange and America run and hide while Wanda wrecks havoc. By ‘wacky’ I mean it looks like a garbage disposal of discarded attempts at NFTs made in a beginners Photoshop class.

When Wanda forces a liberal (through a SCOTUS ruling we assume) to give up a powerful tool she needs, the lib asks why she can’t take a more reasonable approach. She could just have America portal her to some revisionist universe where made-up children are real (like Texas). Why does she insist on killing America in order to absorb all of her powers? Wanda’s reply: “In case I get sick.” (I didn’t make that up, if you were wondering just how lazy this screenwriting is.) Aha, so Wanda is afraid of brain-drain when she gets the world she is killing for. She wants access to doctors from the Johns Hopkins universe, not the University of West Virginia universe.

There is out in this multiverse an alternate Earth where they have a woman Captain America, a Black Captain Marvel, and a superhero who can kill with a whisper, not named Beto. Marvel seems to enjoy showing us this possible world for the amount of time it takes to watch a segment on Rachel Maddow, before Wanda arrives to wipe out this liberal enclave like a gerrymandered district in Houston. Lady Captain America is sliced in half by her own righteous shield, as long as we’re getting super on-the-nose about this. Which half is AOC and which is Joe Manchin, you decide.

It’s Act III now. DSITMM decides to become a zombie movie, as it was a terrible superhero movie anyway. Wanda has killed all the woke superheroes from alternate Earth and has only a twisted ankle from the effort. This allows her to stalk our America and her ineffectual intellectual protector while covered in blood and dragging her foot, looking every bit the crazed zombie she has become. How is she stopped??

Well, here, Dr Strange has to possess a decomposing corpse version of himself (zombie) to fight zombie Wanda. It’s not as fun as it sounds. To save the day, America decides to give Wanda what she wants, portaling her to the universe where her children are real. But wait, this world is inherently good, with an inherently good version of Wanda. This good version of Wanda and her children are appalled by Scarlet Vader Wanda, and shame her into wicked witch of the west-ing herself into a swirling pool of redness.

Marvel fans wonder, is this really the end of Wanda? Of course not. Just look into the beady eyes of Amy Coney Barrett and you’ll find that the reckless witch bent on a world of her own making is still very much alive.

The Oscars Broke My Gay Heart

Rotten gold, magnified 3 1/2 hours.

In any past year, if someone told me they hadn’t watched the Oscars, I’d say they were either irreparably straight or blind. This year, I’d just say they were lucky.

The show has been flailing for a while now, but us loyal gays have stuck with it. Ok, we stayed mostly for the dresses, but still we could always hope for a surprise winner here and there, a transcendent moment in an acceptance speech, an iconic musical performance maybe.  

The 94th Annual Academy Awards could barely manage to throw us a bone, other than Timothee Chalamet’s chest, and who wants to chew on that? Thank god for Arianna DeBose, in general and last night, who put the red in red carpet. If she and Gaga rep as our new Cher at the Oscars, maybe there’s a glimmer on the horizon.

The show did open big, with Beyonce doing a commercial for Pantone’s Color of the Year. She and her entourage didn’t move too much, and her song may as well have been written by Diane Warren for all its uninspired lyrics and flat composition, but we take whatever Beyonce we can get.

Then a trio of lady comedians were presented as hosts, but after their opening, we barely saw them. The gig clearly scares the shit out of everyone, so kudos to Wanda Sykes’ balls, but there was a lack of boysterousness, a sense of apprehension, to the bits, like ‘ok, we’re going to do this joke, hope it works, ok, here goes…”

Halfway through, it was hard to remember anything that had happened. The winners and their acceptance speeches were predictable, even when they were touching. If I pull up a Pixar movie, I know I’m going to tear up in the final act, so same when I know Troy Kotsur’s going to win and give an emotional acceptance speech.

Speaking of unavoidable animation studios, let’s note that Disney doesn’t talk about Bruno because he’s a gay kid in Florida. Why, why cannot voters let go of their fealty to Disney animation? Encanto is yet another off their production line with a theme no one can make sound resonant beyond the now clearly disingenuous theme behind every single other Disney movie (don’t be afraid to be your true self! Right.). Is animation only worthy of an award when it’s written by rich Hollywood parents who can shield their children from red state legislatures? And no, throwing Megan Thee Stallion into your TikTok Bruno pablum doesn’t help. A trophy for Flee would have helped.

There were two other musical performances that didn’t involve dancers kicking a camera around the stage, but were just as nauseating. Reba McIntyre tried valiantly to get her notes around one of the ugliest Diane Warren nominees ever, and that’s saying a lot. Then there was the song from Encanto that wasn’t Bruno, and thus was forgettable, presented in a faux jungle clearing with a dancing couple pulled from a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Union Station.

Billie Eilish and Finneas delivered the only Oscar-worthy performance, of the only decent song nominated. And they won, so that was a tiny blip of light in the dullness.

Another blip came in the second half when the Pepsi-logo stage design was changed out and props repositioned so it didn’t appear as a big white Oscar was looming over the shoulder of all the POC presenters.

As expected, Dune rolled through the craft awards, and all we got out of their six times on stage were what looked like the same two 50-year-old white guys bowing in reverence to some lady named Denice Villeneuve.

And we do care about craft awards! Costume and Make-up especially. Taking most of them out of the broadcast changed nothing. In fact, a lot of times those winners bring some quirkiness and surprise to the proceedings, which last night lacked more than ever.

But what about the BIG surprise, you ask? The most shocking moment in 94 years of Oscar history? Doesn’t that make up for the boredom?

No, not when it’s an on-stage assault. If my beloved Oscars were already on life support, Will Smith just smacked the plug right out of the socket. He didn’t just wipe out the joy of watching CODA win, or Jessica Chastain paying tribute to a woman who was never given her due as a gay ally. He wiped out any hope left that this event is worth watching.

The Academy’s misguided stabs at relevance, complicated by TV network executives blind to what relevance actually is, have already done serious damage. You can forgive new producers for clumsy execution of good ideas, but this strategy has left us a show that trots out lifeless GenZ presenters, who aren’t talented enough actors to pretend they want to be there, and jettisons aspects of the Oscars that have always and will always work – like a full orchestra and a silent In Memoriam segment – for contrived hipness. The few seasoned pros who know how to bring life and spontaneity to the proceedings have either left the building, or are getting assaulted on stage.

This week will be for major damage control on the part of the Smiths and the Academy. But let’s admit it – the hole in the soul of the Oscars is just too big to fill. It was a near-extinct species trying to hobble across the speeding freeway of oblivious and insatiable pop-culture consumers, and Will Smith just made it road kill.

It was so fitting, and so sad, that the final visual of this Oscar night was major talent and gay icon Liza Minelli parked in a wheelchair onstage, no one listening to her because they were all on their phones reading about a Jerry Springer brawl.

My gay heart was broken last night. But maybe that’s good. No matter how enlightened the show tries to be, this Academy still clearly has a lot of mold to clear out of its basement.

The fact that we’ve stuck with Oscar until now shows we diehard fans are willing to compromise. I’d happily sit through a hollow Euphoria pretty-boy attempting to read off a teleprompter if they’d stop giving trophies to every Disney animated movie made. Or hold my tongue about a KStew nomination if they’d stop nominating Diane Warren. But last night left little to negotiate over.

Maybe the Academy should take their awards in-house for the next few years, then put on a major spectacle for the 100th Anniversary in 2028, when Duane Johnson is elected President. Maybe things will be sorted out by then. Maybe Jada’s hair will have grown back, and Will can get angry over reviews of Hancock instead. Maybe Nicole Kidman will be the ultimate Oscar host, as her ‘please go back to the theaters’ promo suggests.

Maybe Oscar can resuscitate itself. In the meantime, let’s look forward to the Gaga/Minelli Vegas show.

DUNE: Denis Villeneuve throws sand in our eyes

“We’re gonna need a bigger bo…ttle of lube.”

When director Denis Villeneuve announced he was making Dune, he said he wanted it to be a “Star Wars for adults”. First of all, fuck you, Denice. Millions of adults love Star Wars. Secondly, we all know the real reason Villeneuve made this movie. Not because Jodorowski never realized his grand vision. Not because David Lynch was too campy.

The real reason is Timothee Chalamet’s hair. Just as Adele’s five-foot-long hands create gale-force winds for her videos and help propel her songs up the charts, Chalamet’s head of bouncy waves is already a movie star, so why not build a movie around it?

The first Dune novel sets the stage for the world-building of Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles series, and Villeneuve felt this novel involves so many characters and intricate politics that it would require two 3-hour films to relate, so cuts this story in half leaving us no narrative satisfaction. We adults had no problem deciphering the Republic/Separatist/Empire politics and character allegiances in Star Wars and could have handled all of Dune in one film. But it seems Villeneuve wanted to fill his movie with Apple TV+ screen-savers. Ok, he does them artsier, but we came for Hair Chalamet!

Hair is dour and pouting (as usual) when we first meet his character Paul Atreides. His mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is making him take the SATs with a harsh professor, and it doesn’t get harsher than Charlotte Rampling. Instead of penciling in ovals, Paul has to put his hand into a box of pain. I’m guessing it’s like putting your foot into a slipper that a cockroach has crawled into, so yikes! Jessica helps her son by telepathically filling his mind with pleasant thoughts, like sex with (pre-cannibal) Army Hammer.

Paul passes the test (he is the King of Pain, which Sting was in the 1984 Dune! That’s an Easter egg I squeezed out myself, you’re welcome.) and Jessica is told he could very well be the savior prophesized to free the Fremen, who aren’t currently free men, or women, or non-binary. Their desert planet Arakis has been occupied for ages by one of the Houses under the Empire because it contains the most valuable commodity in all the galaxy, something called Spice, which enables people to endure trips into deep space. If you’re thinking acid, wrong analogy.

Arakis is styled after the Middle East, so spice is clearly analogous to oil. Arakis natives are brown-skinned with names that sound like exotic, uh, spices (Chani). The occupiers are from royal houses with European names. So whatever Fates rule the Dune world have chosen Paul to save the brown people. Dune’s unfortunate white savior narrative is baked into the original, but let’s be real. The Fate that rules this Dune is Villeneuve, and what does the high-minded, Star Wars-for-adults director do about the story’s poorly-aged trope? He casts pale-as-a-sheet, adolescent girl-magnet Chalamet as the savior.

But hey, even Jason Mamoa can’t resist Hair’s body and shine. When his character Duncan Idaho returns from some spicy trip, Paul and he dash into an embrace that makes you think they’ll be biting into peaches and kreem for lunch. But even though Paul enjoys intimacy with hunks, wears great outfits, is attached to his mother, and obsessed with a female pop star, he’s straight. That’s GenZ for ya!

Duncan and Paul don’t have long to ‘reminisce’ before Paul’s father, Duke Atreides (Oscar Isaac) moves the whole family to Arakis on the Empire’s orders, to take over control of the spice from House Harkonnen. This is all orchestrated by the Emperor to cause a war between the houses that will weaken both. That’s the ‘complex’ political intrigue that Villeneuve needs six hours to explain, even though everything from Succession to Survivor does it in an hour-long episode.

Before all that happens, though, we have to meet a sand worm, touted as one of the grand inventions of Dune. Considering Villeneuve’s declaration that Star Wars got everything from Dune, we expect he’ll make his sand worm look different – more spectacular or menacing or at least weirder – than the sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. Nope. It’s just another gaping sinkhole ringed with spiky teeth. We see more of the worm later, but again, meh. I’ve seen scarier sphincters.

As the Emperor planned, Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard, not half as frightening as the actor Lynch used) attacks the Atreides on Arakis, killing them all except Paul and his mother, who escape to the desert, where we are treated to endless beauty shots of the empty dunes. The incredible cinematography in Dune does give Chalemet’s hair a run for it’s money.

Paul and Jessica are saved by a group of Fremen, one of whom is Zendaya. Like the uninspired sand worm, Villeneuve gives us the gaping hole of a YA meet-cute. She pretends not to like him, he persists, she takes a furtive glance, he catches her, no she didn’t!, ugh. But nevermind, it’s time for Hair’s big scene!

In order to save himself and his mother from being murdered, Paul must win a knife fight with a Fremen assassin. Cue Hair. She throws herself over Paul’s eyes, and we think, this is a fight for his life, and his mother’s. How is he going to fight with hair in his eyes? Is he not allowed to use a scrunchie? Zendaya surely has one, probably in a fun leopard print. But Hair must have her moment. She bounces around, letting Paul see past her in crucial moments. She knows what she’s doing. She’s not a ridiculous oversight that went from mildly annoying to ruining what should be the film’s climactic scene. She is a challenge our hero must overcome in order to prevail. A challenge not just for Paul, but for Timothee.

And then the movie ends. Just like that. We’ll get the second half in what, three or four years? So this film version of a single book in a fantasy series will have taken 7-8 years. Peter Jackson took all three Lord of the Rings books from initial development to the third film in that same amount of time. Is the first Dune novel that much more complex a narrative than Tolkien’s entire LOTR epic? Of course not. The difference is that Jackson gave each film in the trilogy a big, satisfying story of its own, and as much charm and humor as striking visuals and iconic villains. Villeneuve made half a film, took years and hundreds of millions of dollars to obsess over visual details, and couldn’t get his star a $30 haircut.

Being self-serious about science fiction is fine, and Villeneuve did that great in Arrival. The novel Dune, though, has some truly f’ed up characters and scenes. David Lynch doubled down on the gross and weird. Villeneuve decided to clean it all up, putting a more tasteful lens on even the ugliest parts, and using the latest in effects to smooth away the steam punk trappings. Maybe Lynch’s version was clumsy and crazy (Sean Young was the love interest…), but this one keeps everything and everyone at an elegant distance. For a story that’s all about ‘the spice’, this movie has a surprising lack of it.

Sure, from Villeneuve’s lofty view, Dune is striking. But if you like to experience movies from down where the characters are, you just see a hill of sand.  

HOUSE OF GUCCI: Horse bits, loafers, Gaga too…House of Gucci we love you!

“Ay! I didn’t write this shit.”

As much as I adored Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, I’ve always feared she scared good actresses away from camp. When it has been attempted, it’s left for supporting roles, like Meryl Streep’s arch stab at it in The Devil Wears Prada. But to go full Dunaway, you have to carry a film from beginning to end obsessively believing your absurd character can be presented as a real person. It requires a skilled actress to pull it off, and must be abetted by a laughably bad script, costumes that the actress has to battle for attention, and a director who doesn’t get that camp is happening right in front of his lens.

House of Gucci fills all these requirements, and Lady Gaga is full to bursting. The flashy performer, even in her subtler scenes, is a blast to watch, and she tries to keep you from ever looking around her or behind her. Because when you do, yikes, is this movie bad.

Ridley Scott is the aforementioned director, who handles this production like a stuffy old man trying to relate to his trans granddaughter. He’s just too straight for all this Gaga. Witness his choice for the opening scene: an unnecessary tease of Adam Driver’s character Maurizio Gucci right before he’s shot, something we all know is coming. The scene has no purpose other than structural, to bookend the film, because…that’s something true crime movies do?

If he’d understood what he was making, Scott would have opened with the next scene. A little Italian sports car zips into a dusty parking lot. Out steps Gaga, squeezed into a tight skirt and blouse and wearing big, cheap jewelry, which will become her theme. She struts past the wolf whistles from the truckers, acting embarrassed but clearly enjoying the attention. We instantly know who her character Patrizia Reggiani is and what she wants. And we instantly know Gaga is going to get everything she wants from this movie. How? She’s wearing 6-inch stilettos, flattering for her small stature but having nothing to do with the 1970 timeframe.

Gaga covers more of her contractual demands in the next scene, when she enters a 90s disco party surrounded by her gays. Meanwhile, it’s still 1970. Patrizia seems annoyed and restless, maybe because the blocking and camerawork are atrocious and Gaga is having PTSD from when she fell off the stage. She removes herself to the bar and meets Maurizio. Their banter is clumsy and poorly written, so Gaga is forced to plaster on an expression of shock that deserves its own sound effect (ka-boing!) when Maurizio tells her he is a GUCCI.

She spends the next scenes stalking Maurizio with a face that mixes desperation, awe and purple eye-shadow into a meme-worthy stew. Over the miscasting of geeky Maurizio into the body of hunky Adam Driver, Gaga lets you know Patrizia is no Hannah Horvath. The attraction is all about the Gucci name.

Now might be a moment to mention the accents, which run the gamut from “I’m not even trying this” Driver to “Letta me a-sound lika Mario” Jared Leto. These delightful speech impediments are the second-best campy thing in this movie. How campy? Imagine if Reba McEntire, Prince Charles and Charo were playing blood relatives. Now make them Italian and have Charo wear a Jaba the Hut costume.

Our Italian Prince Charles here is Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo Gucci, played by Jeremy Irons. He’s all snob, lives in the same fabulous Milanese Moderne house as I Am Love was set, and does get a few good zingers in, like when Patrizia thinks his Klimpt is a Picasso and he replies, “People have made worse mistakes.”. I wish I could say the same to Ridley Scott.

Patrizia’s nervousness in front of Papa Gucci is funny and relatable, and when she’s forced to mention her father owns a trucking business, Rodolfo knows that means mafia. He tells Maurizio to fuck her but don’t marry her. Driver gives a pointed speech to his father about living in the past that makes zero sense coming from empty-headed Maurizio. He gets cut off and has to work for Patrizia’s father washing trucks.

Maurizio and Patrizia marry in 1973, and the filmmakers choose to play George Michael’s Faith over the scene, one in a string of needle drops that try to trick us about the time period. It’s fine for Gaga and her stilettos to pretend it’s 10 years later than it actually is, because camp is timeless and 80s fashion is hilarious. But the movie is plagued by Scott’s insistence on showing the details of Gucci corporate machinations, so why is he lying about timing?

Now a Gucci, Patrizia throws her wrench into those machinations, and Gaga camps her way through it all, defying Scott’s tendencies. Whenever he takes her out of the picture to let the men talk, the movie flatlines.

Scott tries resuscitating these scenes with Al Pacino doing Scent of a Puttana in makeup that can only be described as ‘roasted to a crisp’, and Jared Leto as usual trying to create his own movie within a movie. His Paolo – a sad, insignificant Gucci heir – is so obnoxiously realized, so desperately trying to steal his scenes, that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Gaga put a hit on him. I’ll do it for free, Steph.

Pacino’s Uncle Aldo gets the ‘blue sweater’ speech, where he makes a sharp insight about fashion’s impact on culture after Patrizia is appalled that no one is doing anything about the Gucci knock-offs on Canal Street. If “New Jersey housewives” can feel some cache from walking around with a fake Gucci, Aldo says, it’s good for the brand. Patrizia, insecure about her own cache as a ‘Gucci’, can’t stomach this.

Things bounce around from silly to boring (Paolo pees on Grace Kelly’s scarf; Rodolfo dies; Gaga wears a necklace of pearls so massive you feel sorry for the oysters; Patrizia frames Aldo for bank fraud; Jared tries to make “boof!’ happen) until Maurizio tires of Patrizia’s pushy ways. As the Italian feds raid their home, Maurizio sneaks out the back door (literally) and motorbikes his way across the border to Switzerland, which is all very Sound of Music. Now the hills are alive with the sound of murder, not because he left Patrizia and their 5-year-old daughter at the mercy of the feds, but because at Christmas he gave Patrizia a Bloomingdales gift card. What’s she supposed to do with that? Buy Sketchers? What a bastardo! He must die.

And as we know, he does. But first we get a scene that almost rewards us for getting to the end of this overlong film. Gaga, dressed like she’s auditioning for West Side Story and wearing chubby face prosthetics, sits next to her psychic and henchwoman Pina, played by Salma Hayek in a wig that was dyed pink, blowtorched and rolled in dirt. There have been some strange arrangements of hair put on top of Gaga through this film, but this Salma wig wins the grand prize. I’ll be seriously disappointed if I can’t find it at Spirit Halloween.

The ladies meet the hired guns, hand over the cash, and the rest is history. Gaga’s final words to the assassins are the same I would use in reference to her performance:

“Don’t. Miss.”