• Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

    What did we watch this weekend?

    • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

      Bound, The Wachowskis
      “I didn’t use the good towel.”

      “Caeser, you don’t know shit.”

      The Wachowski sisters’ first film, laying down all their skills and preoccupations in rough draft, low-budget form; on the good side, we have the tight blocking and framing, the raw and powerful sexuality, and the dreamlike air (at times, I was reminded of David Lynch), on the ‘needs work’ side, we have the sloppy editing and sound design, plus of course the fact that being low-budget means the sets are limited. That said, what sets we do have have a lot of love and craft worked in.

      Caesar feels like the most sincere genre character. Joe Pantoliano never feels like he fits into Wachowski works, but in a good way – they’re always working in a mystical world, and he always plays an anti-spiritual dude running around it. He’s like a balance, something extending the breadth of their world just by being in it.

      The thing about that pontificating is that, if Bound is saying anything, it’s going over my head. On Friday, wallflower talked about genre acting as a jumping-off point for creatives (in that case, David Fincher), and in this case I think it’s acting as a jumping-in point for me as a viewer – whatever the Wachowskis were saying, deliberately or unconsciously through dramatic choices, I took the work as a particularly quirky erotic thriller. The limited characters and locations meant as much nuance was drawn out of individual elements as possible.

      You may recall I spoke once about my friend whose favourite films included The Shawshank Redemption, Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants, and Fern Gully; I knew I was forgetting one, and it was this one, which I originally watched as part of a “friend’s favourite films” marathon. You can see it in the raw lesbian sexuality, the heist, and the hot tough chick in biker jacket stuff.

      Ownage: it’s a pretty ownage-heavy movie. Violence-wise, Caeser filling everyone with bullets was the most awesome; overall, Violet telling Caeser the exact nature of their relationship was the best.

      Conan The Barbarian, John Milius
      “What is best in life?”
      “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women.”

      A goddamned beast of a movie, in all the connotations of the term. I was sold on this movie the first time with the idea that it was simultaneously incredibly cheesy and incredibly moving, which describes my preferred mode of storytelling perfectly. The former comes from the silly plot devices (the silliest being the heatseeking arrow snake), the latter comes from the total dramatic commitment. This is a myth, pared down to essential beats – even the editing is mythical and larger than life – and Milius knows when the story can be told through simple imagery and music, and when a monologue would be most effective; most of the time, the monologues are a layout of the morality the character is about to live up to.

      There are three monologues I found particularly moving: first, when Conan throws the whole “you killed my parents!” thing at him, Thulsa Doom honestly reflects on why he did it, and that his philosophy has changed, and he has complete conviction in the righteousness of what he does. Secondly, when Conan thinks about his father very late in the film, and everything he had to give up for ownage. Finally, Conan’s one and only prayer to Krom.

      So strange to see that John Milius and Oliver Stone collaborated, though I guess it made sense that two men with a taste for the epic/pompous worked together.

      Ownage: Begins at the beginning, ends at the end. Any bit of animal abuse got a big hell yeah out of me though, especially Conan stabbing the snake.

      LOST, Season Two, Episode Nine, “What Kate Did”
      “A few of them came – the new people. Not her – the one who killed Shannon. That would have been a bit awkward.”

      “Don’t mistake coincidence for fate.”

      The one where we discover what Kate did… and it turns out to be boring. It’s kind of a reverse-Shield thing, where the individual moments are actually pretty great and vivid, but they don’t fit together well. The idea that Kate wants to be a good person is compelling (and for a change, the idea that she’s projecting her terrible dad onto Sawyer is compelling, because it gives a solid reason for her to either chase or back away from him, and gives their relationship potential back and forth), it’s just her overall story is so sloppy that it doesn’t hit hard enough.

      (Also, Kate meeting her real-but-not-actually-bio dad, asking why he never killed Wayne, and his “Jesus fucking Christ, what is wrong with you” expression is brilliant and I wish it had been part of a better story)

      That ‘vivid moment, shitty context’ thing also works as a description of Eko and Locke’s plot. Eko gets a goddamned awesome Biblical story that even has a resonant theme – that the Bible was a more effective tool for spreading Christianity than any individual temple – but the context renders it incredibly overblown. Locke wouldn’t need that story to be sold on watching the piece of film Eko had, and it didn’t end up adding anything other than “don’t use the computer” in much stronger terms.

      Ownage: As weak as Kate’s story is, it has some great ownage, starting with Kate killing her dad by blowing him the fuck up.

      My Writing
      Leaning in on the Myers-Briggs and INFJ thing is helping my productivity in writing literature enormously. I push in on how characters feel about what’s happening around them, I jump from one piece of information to another that’s related but not too related, and I don’t bother defining the physical space beyond what’s needed. Using these almost as rules allows me the ability to riff on a theme, jazz-like, until I get bored but keeping everything feeling both necessary and organic or alive. It also helps to keep the morality diverse – at least one of my main characters is definitely not INFJ, and I can keep him a consistent, unique character without losing my empathy for him.

      • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

        Coupla thoughts on Bound:

        I took Bound as the Wachowskis before they needed to be totally blowing our minds, man, and I love it all the more for it. If they had no greater ambition with that film than to tell a gripping story that moves like a lightning bolt, then mission accomplished and please let’s try that again. I tend to respect more than enjoy later Wachowski stuff; that was not a problem I had with Bound, not one little bit. If it’s a “smaller” movie than their later work, it’s “smaller” the same way sports cars tends to be smaller than moving vans. Even Speed Racer, the cinematic equivalent of neon cotton candy, had more clutter and sidesteps than Bound did. (Like, a lot more–and I love me some Speed Racer.)

        I really like your description of how Joey Pants fits in the Wachowskis’ style; nicely said. I think that trait particularly added to Bound’s heft, because as the antagonist, his genre savviness translated directly to his effectiveness as a threat to our protagonists.

        Nicely said about Conan the Barbarian, as well. It’s rare to get a movie that so openly wears its heart on its sleeve, in a way. What sort of person is Conan? Well, his mom’s head was chopped off while she was holding his hand, and then he grew up pushing something called a Wheel of Pain (his entire childhood?) until he looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger because of it. We’ll go from there.

        Heh, just thinking about it makes me want to play Dominions 4 again, if anyone’s heard of that but me.

        • Cennywise The Ploughn

          Seconded on the Pantoliano observation. He’s always kind of a cold bucket of water on the hijinks going on around him. If the Wachowskis had made Ghostbusters, he’d be Venkman.

        • Jake Gittes’ Doppelgänger

          IIRC Bound was almost literally the Wachowskis’ exercise to prove to Joel Silver or themselves or both that they could direct a movie before they could be handed The Matrix. Three main characters, about as many sets, now let’s make something propulsive and effective out of this. Like with Peter Jackson or Gore Verbinski, whose ambitions were also ultimately much bigger, I certainly wouldn’t mind to see them back in this mode, for the challenge if nothing else.

          • thesplitsaber

            ‘I certainly wouldn’t mind to see them back in this mode, for the challenge if nothing else.’

            I think its their best film because it is the only time theyve really had challenges or limitations. From the first Matrix on theyve had a blank check and its been diminishing returns imo.

          • Jake Gittes

            I’d still pick the first Matrix, Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas over it, and all those films did present real challenges either technically or in terms of storytelling or both.

        • Crimson Pico

          Your take on Bound is 100% my take on Bound and it’s my favorite Wachowski movie for exactly those reasons.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Caesar is a really fun character because as we’ve seen he’s a total asshole but for a good chunk of the second act he’s really the main actor, trying to find this fictional money and getting crazier and crazier doing it. Not a lot of movies would make the antagonist so central to the action.

        • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

          It’s funny to compare his appearance here with The Matrix, where he plays basically the same character. I would argue his expression of his viewpoint in The Matrix is more beautiful and articulate (“After nine years, you know what I’ve realised? Ignorance is bliss.”), but he doesn’t get nearly as much time to live it as here.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Pants makes that character almost sympathetic in his weary despair. As I’ve gotten older and life gets harder I think I get Cypher more.

    • I’m going to break character as “guy who loves movies but moans about TV” here because this weekend was all about GREAT TV.

      Stranger Things, season 2 – after the first season ended I was all like “that was fun, but I wish they could have just left it as a standalone story”. I freely now admit that I was an idiot, because this was BRILLIANT. A big step up in every way. I’ve seen a few criticisms of Eight / Kali and her group and that probably wasn’t the strongest element of this season, but I still thought it was good, and made for an interesting diversion. The main story was superb though, the music as great as ever, and that main bunch of kids continue to excel. Really loved the introduction of Sean Astin and Paul Reiser too, both fascinating characters – Bob and Joyce were so cute together, and his death was one of the most genuinely shocking, moving moments of drama I’ve seen in a while.

      Broad City, season 4 episode 6, “Witches” – this was absolutely astonishing. The sitcom as invigorating, life-restoring political protest, and a strong contender for the best episode they’ve ever done.

      I did find time to watch a couple of movies too:
      Vampyr – atmospheric, with some great dreamlike visuals, but that second act spent watching the protagonist slowly read a book made this feel unbearably clunky to me, even considering when it was made. The opening and closing scenes full of camera trickery and striking images made it well worth a watch, but as far as early Vampire film go, I’m definitely more into Dracula and Nosferatu.

      Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers – this feels like a “normalised” version of the genuinely out-there original, but it’s still a lot of fun. Pamela “sister of Bruce” Springsteen is great in the lead role, and the fun dialogue and inventive kills make up for the formulaic slasher plot.

      • GhostZ

        My wife, on the book-reading in Vampyr: Why is he reading this book only a paragraph at a time?
        Me: Okay, to be fair, he’s having a lot of interruptions.

        • Carl Th. Dreyer, on making his first sound film: “They’ll be able to hear every glorious page turn!”

      • hellgauge

        I had the exact same thoughts after the first season of Stranger Things. It’s good to be wrong sometimes.

      • Would season 2 appeal to someone who didn’t like season 1?

        • hellgauge

          Depends on what you didn’t like and/or how much you didn’t like it.

          • Too long. Didn’t sync with any of the nostalgia in it. Anti-climactic. Score was good, but like it more when Cliff Martinez does it.

          • hellgauge

            I think there’s a chance you’ll like it, but hard to say. The main strengths of this season is building a more sustainable world and cast of characters, relying less on the novelty of it all. It’s still somewhat invested in being set inside a world of 80s nerd nostalgia, but I think it has more to offer this time. Lengthwise it’s longer, but there’s also more to the story this time. I’d suggest giving it a shot if you’re feeling a bit lazy some day and just want something easy to watch. Though, just as a warning (and I know we all hate hearing this), for my own sake I thought the first two episodes were “fine”, but then it really started getting good in episode 3.

          • Sounds fair. I want to like it, which helps. I’ll keep it in mind, thanks.

        • I doubt it. I’d definitely say it’s a step up, but it’s more of the same kind of thing rather than any kind of real departure.

    • jroberts548

      The Exterminating Angel.

      That was dumb. They should have just left. There wasn’t actually anything keeping them there, like a forcefield.

      The Gifted. It continues to be really effective network genre tv. The showrunners are really smart about ways to use powers for the plot and ways to show it on screen within their budget.

      The Good Place I thought they were going to have Chidi come in and maybe figure out a way to solve the lying problem. I’m way more excited about the actual solution, which is Jason Mantzoukas! I’m curious to see how he fits in, as he’s typically an agent of chaos and this is a such a well-ordered show.

      The Exterminating Angel. I didn’t really think it was dumb. It’s actually super impressive and I liked it. Apart from one or two sequences showing outright hallucinations, it’s more absurd than surrealist. It takes one absurd premise (some unspecified, abstract force is preventing a group of upper class twats from leaving after a party) and plays it fairly realistic from there. They descend into anarchy, filth, and indignity. The movie takes place with more than a dozen people in one room, but the camera work also feels fluid and not stagy.

      The next picture podcast paired this with mother!, and it’s a decent pairing. You should check it out. Also, this article about it is pretty good: https://theasc.com/ac_magazine/August2009/DVDPlayback/page4.html

      • If you haven’t seen The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, I highly recommend seeking it out while The Exterminating Angel is still fresh in your mind – it’s a fascinating example of a director approaching similar material from different angles. I think somebody suggested I do this back when I watched Exterminating Angel and I’m glad they did, so I’m passing it on!

        • I’ll second watching them back-to-back. I really like Buñuel and wish he were spoken of as often as other directorial giants. Exterminating Angel is probably in my Top 20.

          • I actually liked Discreet Charm quite a lot more, but I definitely think they’re both enhanced by watching them close together.

            I haven’t seen too many other Buñuel films, but I did see Los Olvidados recently and was VERY impressed by that, so thus far I am very much on board.

          • Un Chien Andalou is of course a must-watch (the fact he wrote it with Dali just adds to it) for how masterfully it’s edited – it’s on youtube if you’re interested. Belle de Jour is one the sexiest films ever made. Phantom of Liberty is just him off the deep end, fucking around.

          • I’ve seen Un Chien Andalou and I’ve had Belle de Jour on DVD for ages, so maybe I’ll throw it into my November “what do we watch when we don’t watch horror?” watchlist.

            Never heard of Phantom of Liberty but I’m immediately intrigued!

        • jroberts548

          This was actually only my first Buñuel. I really liked it. I’d assumed he was all about slicing eyeballs open, and not about running with dream logic. I need to see more of his movies. And also more Cocteau along the same lines.

      • Cennywise The Ploughn

        Your initial review of EA sounds exactly what I’d expect to see on Amazon reviews.

        • jroberts548

          Alas, I couldn’t find actual reviews like that.

          But I was thinking more about it: if there was something keeping them there, the basic structure of the story would look similar. It would be accessible. It would make a fun episode of Doctor Who or Star Trek.

          Not having something actually restraining them doesn’t necessarily make the story more sophisticated or inaccessible directly, but it does take away there being any sort of moral arc. They don’t learn anything. They don’t solve anything.

          Which makes the movie absurdist and not sci fi.

          Also, this would have been an absolutely perfect episode of community.

    • GhostZ

      Hush: This works really well. It’s not overly original, but it sustains its tension throughout and has some genuine surprises (the fake-out with the friend’s cell phone is a nice touch). It also has one of the more interesting slasher killers I’ve seen, in that he’s actually pretty intentionally not interesting, outside of the terror he’s inflicting: he’s a coward who admits he’s easily physically outclassed by any “jock type” (language which in itself suggests some long-term high school hangover) and who is smart enough to be a threat but not nearly smart enough to be invincible, whose plan to toy with his victim goes almost ceaselessly wrong. He’s terrifying, but he’s not, and can’t be, iconic.

      The Innocents: Gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, subtle and nuanced characterization, clever ambiguity, and that prize of all horror movies: the fact that my ability to analyze it on an artistic level completely went away when I was trying to sleep that night and all I could think about was Peter Quint’s face in the window or Miss Jessel standing motionless across the pond.

      Halloween: Now here’s iconic. The only meaningful flaw here–i.e., not the only flaw but the only one that goes against what the movie is trying to be–is Michael donning the sheet and glasses as a temporary costume. It’s a terrifically unnerving scene–its problem isn’t that it’s not scary or that it’s not plausible, because it’s both. It’s just that it breaks the movie’s very carefully maintained balance between Michael-as-bogeyman-archetype and Michael-as-guy-who-has-to-interact-with-the-world. Carpenter generally sells the idea that Michael is a force of evil contained within a body and uses that to get around any nitpicking. Michael is just grounded enough in reality that he’s forced to deal with it–he has to steal a car, has to break into a hardware store, etc.–but not enough that it affects him. How does he know how to drive? Maybe someone gave him lessons or maybe he’s just preternaturally capable. Why is this long-term patient so strong he can hold a man inches off the floor with one hand? Why is this psychologist so insistent that he was able to deduce meaning, motive, and mythos from the catatonia of a child? Where the hell was he hiding that gravestone during the day? It doesn’t matter, because Michael is the bogeyman, and one who is very insistent on not having a particular face (a strategy the camerawork cooperates with). The ghost costume doesn’t work because it packs in way too much implied psychology–it’s no longer Michael killing like a shark swims, it’s him taking the time, and having the kind of mind, to think, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if I put a sheet over my head and this guy’s glasses on and went upstairs so his girlfriend would think I was him?” It’s this very abrupt “Michael Myers, actual character” moment as opposed to “The Shape,” and it breaks the flow.

      All that being said, I’m going to go stock up on wire hangers so I’ll have something to stab intruders with as I hide in my closet.

      And Stranger Things, the first three episodes of season two. I’m actually liking this better than the first season. The extension of the plot feels really natural, and so do the complications in the characters’ dynamics. Also, when will someone let me adopt Millie Bobby Brown?

      • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

        Where do Michael’s occasional inexplicable aesthetic decisions when it comes to the bodies fit in? Because I recall thinking of Michael as a genuinely alien being, whose thought process was beyond comprehension; the disguise worked for me specifically because it was as random as anything else he did.

        • GhostZ

          The body placements also felt genuinely alien to me, so I was fine with those. I think I just want to randomize the ghost disguise a little bit more, though I’ll grant that the glasses on the outside of the sheet do have the right kind of strangeness if I think about it not as Michael trying to specifically pretend to be Bob but more as him almost not fully getting how glasses work.

          • Cennywise The Ploughn

            I hadn’t considered it before, and in my memory the scene read as “a sheet fell on his head and he went with it,” not realizing this would make them think he’s Bob. But the glasses suggest intention. I guess I might also read both the sheet and glasses as another form of mask. But then why both?

      • Pleased to see that Stranger Things is working for you too. I’ve seen quite a few people saying they’re not enjoying it as much as the first season but it feels like a near-perfect sequel to me, and it made me feel Exciting Emotions!

      • Miller

        “He’s terrifying, but he’s not, and can’t be, iconic.”

        The moment when he takes off his mask is one of my favorite scares in a horror movie of the past several years. In one motion he becomes more human and less potentially iconic but also more evil — there is nothing to stop this obviously regular guy from torturing and killing this woman, so why even pretend to be a boogeyman? Removing a mask usually leads to some kind of knowledge — it was him/her/the crooked realtor the whole time! — but here it reveals nothing but how ordinary this monster is and that makes him terrifying. He’s any guy, he’s every guy.

        • GhostZ

          I agree. Definitely my favorite moment in the film and probably one of my favorite horror moment from recent films.

          “Well, you’ve seen it now. Haven’t you?”

        • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

          This is why I could never get into Rob Zombie’s version of “Halloween” (though I know that version has its own champions). I don’t need more backstory! What Carpenter gives you is enough: He’s from the same neighborhood as the others. Isn’t that frightening enough?

          • Miller

            I am a defender of the first Zombie Halloween (haven’t seen the second) and its extended opening/backstory in particular — it sets up some interesting class stuff for Michael, the product of a shitty poor family who now has these ignorant yuppies taking over his home. To me it works because this is a re-imagining, adhering to all conventions of the original would be pointless, it’s not Gus Van Zant’s Halloween.

          • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

            A fair point, and I was hoping you’d chime in, since I find your rationale for the remake’s backstory respectable, even though I’m not a fan. Having the killer be a poor guy from a poor family could be real hackneyed and hamfisted, but it sounds like Zombie pulls it off?

          • Miller

            If nothing else Zombie has a feel for the texture of young Michael’s life, the white trash is matter-of-fact even as it’s set up to be exploitative in the context of the film. The class stuff gets lost as the movie goes on (and making Michael fucking ginormous is a remake decision I think fails) but he still works as a boogeyman out of the past if not THE boogeyman.

      • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

        This is already well-established, but part of the reason this movie (and “Nightmare on Elm Street”) work so well for me is because they embrace their villains as supernatural forces which makes them all the more frightening (I even prefer their credited nomenclature of “The Shape,” moreso than Michael Myers, which conveys his sense of otherness).

        Whereas you compare it to, say, “Friday the 13th,” and you realize how difficult creating an antagonist like that actually is. Mrs. Voorhees isn’t a force of evil! She’s just an angry Mom! How does she get through some of her baffling murder stunts?*

        *Obviously a good point of contrast here is the “Scream” franchise, which wholeheartedly embraces what a pain-in-the-ass it is to murder someone while wearing a Halloween costume.

      • Jake Gittes’ Doppelgänger

        If there’s any horror film out there that’s more exquisite than The Innocents, I haven’t seen and I’d be surprised if I ever did. That opening song over the pitch-black screen, miss Jessel standing juuuuuuuust out of focus across the pond, Deborah Kerr wandering the dark old mansion at night with a candelabra and getting essentially assaulted by sights and sounds, it’s got everything anyone could ever want from a cinematic Victorian ghost story and I’m so giddy it exists.

    • hellgauge

      Under the Sun of Satan: A strange dive into the intersection between fanaticism and altruistic self-sacrifice.

      During the first half, this comes across as a rare misstep in Pialat’s ouvre. In adapting a novel and not writing the screenplay himself, one gets the impression that he wasn’t able to make the material his own. There’s a lot of very literary or theatrical dialogue, including having the actors facing away from each other when speaking a lot of the time. This really clashes with Pialat’s unsentimental realism. On the other hand there’s also the sense that he’s just kind of picking out a few scenes and jumping across sections he doesn’t care about (not having read the novel, I couldn’t say for sure), with his usual disruptive editing and temporal leaps being cranked up to 11. There are also a few other stylistic touches that seem very carelessly implemented. Luckily, it becomes clear about halfway through that this is very intentionally a departure in many ways and that what has seemed like mistakes are actually purposeful disruptions to shake us of our expectations for what we are going to see. In fact, some of the scenes in the second half are some of the best he’s ever done, while simultaneously being completely outside his usual MO.

      Ultimately this is just a tad too uneven and unfocused to be his very best work, but it’s definitely among his better ones and once again proves that his most interesting work seems to happen when he pushes himself into new territory. This is certainly his strangest film and I suppose it was this novelty that won it the Palme. I have a few more films left to see, but it’s becoming very clear to me that Pialat is an underrated filmmaker deserving more attention. If I had to make a guess, I’d say it’s because he never made a genuine masterpiece (unless there’s one hiding among the last few I haven’t seen). In any case, his body of work is strong enough that I really think he should be on more people’s radar.

      The Future Perfect: Language training and social integration as acting and storytelling.

      This is an intriguing film that definitely punches above its weight. It does several interesting things by mixing (apparent) documentary with fiction and by suggesting that realism can sometimes be more fantastic and less believable than the alternative. Also interesting to see the blending of cultures, especially as someone who works with a lot of expats.

      The Phantom Carriage: I had somehow missed how Christmas Carol-ly this was, thinking it would push the spooky angle more. It takes a while to really build the story and drama, but it definitely gets there eventually. Aside from the nice use of double exposure, this wasn’t all that formally innovative when compared to what was happening in Germany at the same time. Still, it’s a good story and the film tells it well. Just because it’s not quite the classic I was hoping for doesn’t mean it’s not a pretty good movie.

      Van Gogh: A thorny portrait of a troubled (and troubling), “great” man’s last days.

      Given his prior output, it’s not hard to see what about this project appealed to Pialat. His usual neutral approach to character morality lends itself well to this particular portrait (no pun intended), especially the way sprinkling out the bad behavior makes it hit harder in the most crucial moments. With this second period piece in a row, he also allows the the beauty of the surrounding non-urbanity to influence the mise-en-scène more than in the previous film and, outside the occasional impressionist glow of city lights, more than usual really. Van Gogh himself is portrayed as fairly nonchalant and calm, but given to sudden outbursts of depression and panic. Perhaps most interestingly in terms of this portrayal and the general approach to what was happening around him, the film suggests a multitude of layers and events happening beyond the screen by cutting across a lot of what seems like worthwhile stories. Essentially managing to feel like a tiny sliver of a life, even though it devotes 2.5 hours to only 60 days (compared to the usual years if not decade spanning approach of most biopics). Though I guess it comes as no surprise that a Pialat film would suggest that life isn’t so easy and clear cut as movies often lead us to believe.

      A usual talking point for Pialat is the extent to which his films are auto-biographical. I don’t really know much about his life and therefore haven’t really spent much time speculating about that before. Here though, it’s hard not to suspect that this late film about the end of an artists life, one who got little to no recognition in his own time yet is now held as one of the greats, isn’t at least a little bit about himself. Not that Pialat is necessarily making a direct comparison, but I’m sure he saw some aspects of himself in Van Gogh. He’s still not today quite gotten the respect he deserves as a filmmaker for one thing, but there are other aspects too. Keeping within the realm of film, I couldn’t help thinking that the continued reference to Renoir, meaning of course the painter, but always by last name only (allowing one to think of the filmmaker instead), invites speculation about Pialat’s own reflections about where he belonged among his colleagues. Especially when one sequence in the film’s last half quite strongly brought Renior’s French Cancan to mind. Obviously Renior junior wasn’t a contemporary of Pialat in the same way that Renior senior was of Van Gogh, and stylistically and textually I find it hard to compare the two filmmakers very much. Yet I find this an intriguing thought.

      Otherwise there’s also Van Gogh’s personal struggles, which probably echo some of Pialat’s. For example, the relationship with the 17-19 year old girl invites one to reflect on the troubling recurrence of sexualized younger girls, though not always in relationships with older men, in Pialat’s films. It’s never been truly a cause of concern for me due to the way he presents it and embeds it into the narrative, but there’s always been enough for the voice inside my head to nag a little bit. It’s all just speculation in the end, but these are the kind of speculations good (and possibly problematic) filmmakers invite when they put (or at least seem to put) parts of themselves into the films they are making.

      All in all, this is a great film, sticking in some ways close to certain familiar biopic aspects, but always gently subverting them with Pialat’s stylistic and thematic concerns. Very close to being my new favorite of his films.

      Fort Apache: Another great effort by Ford and one that more than usual grapples with the racism of the old West’s colonialism.

      While one certainly shouldn’t let Ford of the hook for his general portrayals of Native Americans as antagonists in many of his westerns, I think it’s perhaps easy, especially in films like this, to conflate his pro-soldier, even (at least in a sort of abstract, almost apolitical way) pro-military stance, with a general antipathy towards the Native Americans. Sure, his heroes are always fighting on the side of the colonialist interests that want to contain and subdue the various tribes, but his (not entirely unproblematic) celebration of their bravery is more focused on the response to particular situations than it is with the cause they’re fighting for. Made so close to WW2, and Ford’s involvement in it, I find it hard to be too harsh in my judgement of this enamorment of the military and individual acts of bravery from soldiers in particular. In any case, this film very clearly objects to Fonda’s character’s views of the Native Americans and is very critical of how they are treated. The contradiction seemingly arises with the end, but here I think Ford makes an early statement about the kind of issues he would delve more deeply into with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

      Beyond that, this is another impeccably made western by Ford. No one shoots a high speed chase with horses and wagons quite like him. The many grace notes in how he shoots the characters and how he uses both the backdrop of Monument Valley and the looming raw sky, are certainly hard for anyone to beat. The screenplay is also full of a lot of neat lines and the dancing scenes are terrific. Just a lot of wonderful stuff in general.

      Stranger Things 2: Overall I liked it more than the first season. It does that typical thing that often happens with second seasons on shows with more contained first seasons, where it expands certain things beyond where it probably should (antagonists in particular) and spends more time on making a more well-rounded portrait of many of the characters that were a bit neglected before. It’s successful in this effort by not straining too much on the former point while delivering quite well on the latter. In general I found the plot of the season very exciting, which was probably the main draw for me. The aesthetics and more specific points of the writing aren’t really standouts personally, but the overall story managed to hook me really well. Put me down as someone who found episode 7 a little confounding. I see it’s value, but it completely kills the momentum of the season and would be entirely unforgivable in a non-binging context. With this kind of heavily serialized season-long arc, you can’t just abandon the main storyline when it’s about to get really crazy to do a one-off departure where every single character except one is benched. It’s just not that kind of show. I also have a few minor nitpicks. Like Max’s brother being just so incredibly over the top douche-y that it was hard to take anything about him seriously (even the late turn into domestic issues towards the end). Also, Mike’s behavior towards Max was sort of understandable, but somehow didn’t end after *redacted* came back and was never addressed at the end. Felt kind of weird to me. Still, I really enjoyed this season and am almost weirdly preemptively on board with whatever they come up with next year.

      • Somewhat agreed on Max’s brother, although I enjoyed his ridiculous hair and fashion sense so much that I didn’t really mind his storyline not going anywhere. I feel like some of these incomplete diversions might be laying seeds for expansion in future seasons now that the Super Duffer Bros have tasted success and gotten a little more ambitious, but that might be giving them too much credit.

        • hellgauge

          Could be you’re right in terms of expansions, but I don’t think it was done very well in that case. Especially considering that they’re most likely sticking to the year-long jumps in the story (in this case because of the thing with Elle/Jane having to lay low a while before being able to start school and such and because the kids are at that age where the show really has to age with them to avoid straining credulity).

          • Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch. I was continually impressed by what they did with Steve though, so I’ll hold on to a little hope that they have a plan for Douchey McToolerson.

      • GhostZ

        Re: Max’s brother, whose name I cannot remember and to whom I will therefore be referring as Dochey McToolerson–I think he does point to a problem the Duffer Brothers have in making their nearly almost all their antagonists terrible in a relentlessly one-note way.

        • hellgauge

          Yes and also one of the downsides to their 80s devotion (reproducing also some of the more boring stereotypes of the era, without managing to give them the necessary twist).

        • Miller

          Having just finished, the context for Douchey actually makes him worse — I’d rather take my assholes straight (and Douchey is a great asshole) than watered down by cliche backstory.

    • Princess Mononoke – I liked it ok. Something about Miyazaki just doesn’t sync with me. There’s nothing wrong with this movie – compelling fantasy, unique world, beautiful animation, great themes, no villains only differing viewpoints – but I remained unmoved by it. For all three I’ve seen by him (this, Howl…, and Spirited…), I’ve had the same muted reaction. I think I’m done with him for now.

      • Miller

        If you do give Miyazaki another shot, I’d recommend the outlier Castle of Cagliostro — as swashbuckling action spectacle it frequently rivals Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is not Miyazaki’s usual mode, he’s working within the structure of the Lupin III anime he’s adapting, but he does a bang-up job and it looks fantastic. (And as befitting the material, there is a villain here — I cherish Miyazaki’s evenhandedness but sometimes you just need a bad guy and he’s a good one).

      • Cennywise The Ploughn

        [devil appears on Ploughman’s left shoulder]
        Devil: Screw that reaction! Post what an uncultured moron he is!
        [angel appears]
        Angel: He gave it more than a fair shot. It’s wonderful that this world can hold different opinions! Recommend something more grounded like The Wind Rises.
        Devil: Recommend a lobotomy!
        Angel: Devil, wouldn’t you like a taste of this biscuit baked by a kindly old woman?
        Devil: [gentle munch] Ah! It has revealed my true, mild nature! I was misunderstood all along!
        Angel: Let’s fly through the air with our magical folk tale friends!
        Ploughman: [tears] Masterful!!

        • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

          *Ploughman, after realizing both the devil and the angel on his shoulder ditched him, opts to write a summation of events, effectively splitting down the middle of good AND evil.

          • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

            Turns out, there really *is* a True Neutral option there!

      • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

        I adore Miyazaki, but I will confess to occasionally needing to refocus my brain in the action at hand when some crosscultural moment happens. I don’t mean anything offensive, I just mean like “…oh…oh, right, the little girl is cut off from her parents and doing slave labor in a furnace now and she’s making friends because she’s choosing to be happy and work hard.”

        That reads super snarky to me but I really don’t mean it that way; I really do love these. But sometimes I get thrown out of their groove, for sure.

    • Miller

      Cat’s Eye — Stephen King, anthology, road map. The King-written script keeps some clunky lines but also knows what makes these stories — Night Shift classics Quitters Inc. and The Ledge, along with a new tale — work in his style, like Ledge’s evil pigeon. Solid fun with a great run of That Guys like Alan King, Kenneth McMillan, James Rebhorn and Mike Starr popping up throughout.

      90s Outer Limits episodes Dead Man’s Switch, The Quality of Mercy and The Light Brigade — some effects are dated, sure, but these are all good-to-great sci-fi stories that use limited settings to tell stories that don’t get told enough in the genre, namely that humans and humanity are foolish. Dead Man is a tale of isolation and ethics — five people are placed in separate bunkers and tasked with continually preventing a doomsday device from going off, unless a potential alien invasion means humanity is screwed anyway — with a foreseeable but still solid twist. But Mercy and Brigade are the real standouts, two standalone chapters in a human-ET war. Mercy’s twist is even more obvious from the very beginning but the pleasure is watching POWs Robert Patrick and Nikki de Boer (also of Cube and what the hell happened to her? She is a hell of a genre actress) get there and the sting is not any less. And Brigade gives a solid role to Graham Greene and makes superb use of a callow and annoying Wil Wheaton to set up a one-two punch that totally caught me off guard and snapped some issues I had with the episode into a clear and nasty place. Damn good stuff.

      Stranger Things 2, episodes 1-5 — still pretty good but draggy, the show is trying to deal with trauma but that leads to too many people not fucking talking to each other and spinning their wheels. Millie Bobby Brown is still great though, with a face that is incredibly expressive even as it remains still. Best reference — I am 99 percent sure that Max’s asshole brother purposefully has 90s Stand miniseries Randall Flagg’s all-denim ensemble and evil mullet.

    • Stranger Things 2, part 1 (yes, it’s not really a sequel, but the show’s opening credits call it Stranger Things 2, so I will use that) – Good start, with a lot of interesting pieces, and the usual nostalgia, maybe too much. The high point for me was seeing the kids playing Dragon’s Lair, just ten minutes after I was talking with my wife about the video games of that era (since we saw one episode title is “Dig Dug.” She had never heard of Dragon’s Lair, so I told her all about it. Including how expensive it was. And sure enough, the game is here. I am really disappointed in myself that I never knew till now that Don Bluth was the lead animator on the game. But man, his style is impossible to miss, isn’t it?)

      The Good Place, Chapter 20 – a very funny outing that is almost entirely Janet and Michael. My concerns that Kristen Bell has been shoved aside by Ted Danson seem to have been accurate, but D’Arcy Carden’s increased role almost makes up for that.

      The Flash, “Luck Be a Lady” – Once again, we are in surprisingly light-hearted if soapy territory, with a rather unvillainous villain whose name (and very briefly, whose outfit) are taken from an otherwise unrelated DC character. Overall, this was fun, but I think the show’s pendulum has swung too far from Teh Drama to FUN! Also, Wally is leaving the show for now, which makes me wonder why they introduced him, and Joe West and his girlfriend (who is almost as old as he is) are expecting a baby. This being TV, I sincerely doubt we get to see a scene where the two of them discuss the odds of having a child with a birth defect, or consider that they are too old to have a kid, or talk about abortion.

    • Babalu-ghost

      The Lure (2017) – A Polish horror musical about killer mermaids that is committed to both the “horror” and “musical” aspects of it’s genre. This was a lot of fun. Self assured, genuinely strange, and beautifully filmed; possessing both a dark dry sense of humor and savage sense of outsider rebellion. Think of it as a post-soviet disco take on Ginger Snaps. This is not at all a realist film, and much of the movie seems to be operating metaphorically, which mostly went over my head. It all feels culturally specific in a way that I couldn’t quite get a read on. This combines with the loopy nature of plotting and the non-diegetic musical numbers to make it difficult, at times, to understand what exactly is happening in the story. But you get the broad strokes of both plot and emotion, and if the film’s occasionally incoherent, it’s never boring. It’s 92 minutes, an absolutely singular experience, and an easy recommendation.

      Hellraiser – I was mostly familiar with this series through VHS covers at my childhood Blockbuster. I’ve seen a few scattered scenes over the years and filled it away as another schlocky horror franchise like Goolies or Critters. But as the most promising movie left in the ever narrowing genre of “horror movies that are free to stream that I haven’t seen and don’t look like complete garbage” I decided to finally knock it off. And to my surprise this is actually a pretty good film, fully successful on its own terms.

      The story follows Julia (Clare Higgins) who’s having an affair with her brother in law, Frank. Frank is a sexual deviant who uses a cursed puzzle box to summon a bunch of S&M demons (though some call them angels) and gets dragged to hell in the cold open. Frank escapes hell as a skinless skeletal monstrosity, and begs Julia to bring him fresh victims so that he can rebuild his body. Julia can’t refuse him, and we have a classic horror scenario, with all the elements working in harmony. Over indulgence leading to ever escalating corruption, with the cenobites being the personification of the final end. A damnation whose victims enter willingly, eagerly even. The film makes a major blunder by shifting its protagonist from Julia to her step daughter, a true innocent, and all of the subtext dissolves in an instant. But this is also where the movie starts to get really weird and I’ll always trade thematic consistency for the sudden unexplained appearance of a bone dragon.

      I was really impressed by the world building here. The mythology feels deep and strange and unique, despite the movie having almost no exposition. There seem to be rules that govern the cenobites, but we can’t quite puzzle those rules out, which makes the action feel real (in a sense) without violating the unknown. The creature design is also excellent, from the goopy scorpion/baby/thing, to the various forms of Frank, to the simple elegance of Pinhead.

      Hellbound: Hellraiser II – This was more like what I was expecting. The acting’s a bit stronger, with Clare Higgins excelling in a more overtly villainous role and Kenneth Cranham being a lively addition to the cast. But everything else is a step down. The effect work is cheaper. The story is less interesting. The tone is much more jokey. And the mythology takes a huge step in the wrong direction. Somehow this movie expends ten times the exposition of the first, and manages to shrink the world instead of expand it. The cenobites used to be humans! Hell is the literal Hell! The devil is a poorly rendered floating pyramid! Ugh!

      It does have an incredible ending, where it’s cheerfully revealed that the protagonist has been wearing her mother’s skin as a disguise. The film’s complete unwillingness to acknowledge the horror of this revelation, and the chipper upbeat demeanor of our heroine, manages to make it all the more disturbing. Hell has changed you Kristy, more than you’ll ever know.

      NFL Football – After a surprisingly strong start to the season the Lions have finally clawed their way back to a losing record. Looks like I missed a pretty classic baseball game to watch this, too.

      • I watched Hellraiser for similar reasons (“I guess I should check this out eventually” rather than any real interest) but it has become one of my favourite horror films. It’s just the right kind of nasty and strange for me. The sequels definitely ramp up the dumb parts but I really enjoyed parts 2 and 3 as well (it fully becomes The Pinhead Show in pt. 3, BUT there are a LOT of explosions and people getting murdered using CDs)

      • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

        “the most promising movie left in the ever narrowing genre of “horror movies that are free to stream that I haven’t seen and don’t look like complete garbage”

        I take it you either already saw, or didn’t know “The Witch,” is streaming on Amazon?

        More to the point, my only point of entry for this series was the tail-end of “Hellhound: Hellraiser II.” Imagine: You’re at the gym, on an elliptical, working out before going to a haunted hayride, so you don’t have much time. You’re channel surfing on the machine, and you come across this very peculiar M.C. Escher environment, with someone losing skin off their body. If nothing else, that should be fairly hypnotic for the 20-30 minutes you’re exercising, no?

        But if I were to see it in context, I’m fairly certain I’d have the same reaction as you. But hey! At least the first one’s good. Should definitely try and see that sometime.

        • Babalu-ghost

          I’m with @JuliusKassendorf:disqus on The Witch. I know it’s popular around here, so I’ll keep my thoughts to myself unless someone asks. But, I have such opinions to show you.

          Hellbound’s not really a bad movie as schlock horror goes, and it has plenty of stretches that work great. It just doesn’t quite have the magic of the first. Interestingly, I would say that providing too much context is it’s biggest problem, so maybe watching it in pieces at the gym is the ideal format.

          • Babalu-ghost


            The VVitch is the worst kind of period piece combined with the worst kind of horror movie. For the former it’s the kind of period piece that imagines that in the past a mother comforting her sick child would speak with the same verbose formality as a governor composing a letter to the king. The sort of movie more concerned with putting it’s cast in historically accurate costumes than telling an interesting story. A movie that painstakingly recreates an utterly indecipherable long dead accent, instead of trying to capture what this world would feel like to people actually born into it. (God what I would give for Vincent Price and his perfect precise pronunciation to pilfer the production from this poor pallid patriarch.) Everything is sacrificed chasing a realism that was never as real as people thought it was, and is an especially lost cause in a movie where vvitches exist.

            Which brings me to the horror, which is the sort of horror where all the characters react to everything with wild hysteria. Shrieking and blubbering throughout the entire run time. Another piece of “realism” that’s far less real than people realize. Some find this frightening, but I always find it obnoxious and annoying. It makes me hate the characters and the filmmakers. I spend the whole film questioning why I’m still bothering watching it. Also, Black Phillip isn’t scary. He’s just a goat. Go outside sometimes people!

            I liked the ending, and thought that should have been the end of the first act. It’s the only interesting thing that happens in the whole film. The cinematography is fine, too, I guess.

            Oh, and The VVitch is a pretentious fucking title. If you don’t have the balls to call them vitches in the film, than use the actual alphabet. This director is a vucking vasshole.

            I suppose I’m to be cast out of The Solute, now. But it tis I who choose to cast mineself out.! For it tis thee who art unpure! Thee!

            Honestly though, these criticisms are mostly style preferences and are especially subjective, even by the already subjective standards of art. I have no real ill will towards The Witch. I’d never watch it again, but I’m glad it exists and that people enjoy it. It’s a movie that, if nothing else, knows what it wants to be and accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish.

          • I will not hear you blaspheming Black Philip. He’s easily the best part of this movie.

          • Babalu-ghost

            He’s adorable

          • clytie

            All movies could be improved by adding goats.

          • Cennywise The Ploughn

            It’s interesting to hear that, since I’m usually the first to roll my eyes at historic pretensions (the most egregious being CW shows where, for better or otherwise, the dialog is clearly not researched and yet the actors bring out their best Shakespearean affect). But The VVWitch went so deep into it, it must have come out the other side for me. I thought it conveyed a sense of living in the times by showing the frightening prospect of dealing with a great wooded unknown. Your only protection against an unexplored and hostile frontier is playing nice in your collective – stray too far away from them and you’re hosed (the family is starving and in trouble even without having to contend with a witch since their farming isn’t great shakes).

          • Babalu-ghost

            The family’s ineptitude is another problem I had. We’re introduced to the father as the biggest prick in a community famous for being historically massive pricks. And then he’s completely incapable of fending for himself. Go back to town and apologize. I really hated these characters. It’s not even like a slasher where it’s fun to watch everybody get picked off in increasingly outlandish ways. This is just watching awful characters stew in their awfulness. When Anya Taylor-Joy joins the vitches at the end, it’s supposed to be a dark sinister ending, but it’s so obviously the correct rational choice. There isn’t any subversion to the narrative. After the first five minutes sets everything in place, it all plays out exactly as you would expect.

            I’ll give the movie credit for committing to its language, and for putting the work in to make it feel authentic, but I’d have much prefered a half-assed approach. Drop a thee or thou every half hour, and get on with the story.

          • Jake Gittes’ Doppelgänger

            “When Anya Taylor-Joy joins the vitches at the end, it’s supposed to be a dark sinister ending”

            This is where you really lose me. I definitely don’t think the movie telegraphs what the ending is supposed to be, and I don’t see it as sinister, but rather simultaneously triumphant and melancholy – Thomasin escapes from a family that turned on her to one where she’ll be accepted and empowered and will “live deliciously”, but that doesn’t take away from the tragedy of what she had to go through to arrive at that place. In fact the ending is exactly what makes the movie one of my favorites of recent years, I would be a lot more down on it if it went with the rote miserablist “so, everyone died. the end” conclusion. I think it does subvert the narrative, precisely by acknowledging the “correct, rational choice”.

            I didn’t find the other characters as one-dimensional as you did either. In essence both William and Catherine are torn between their love for their children and their deeply rooted faith/superstition and fear in the face of inexplicable evil, and, in William’s case, his pride (which is strong but not that strong, he’s ready to go back to the village once shit hits the fan, it’s just too late by then). Unfortunately, the fear wins out. But they aren’t awful.

          • Cennywise The Ploughn

            I agree. I didn’t find the ending presented as an unambiguously bad fate. It’s a fall from grace that’s literally the opposite of a fall. If anything, if you took no stock in the family’s faith or inherent morality, it would be an unambiguously happy ending. Pious starvation to honor a God who can’t be bothered to protect you? Or blissful forest orgies and all the babies you can eat?

          • Jake Gittes’ Doppelgänger

            And Thomasin sure agrees. I mean, she’s happy in the final seconds.

          • Babalu-ghost

            That’s a fair read of the ending, and more interesting than mine, although still too little too late for me.

            I wouldn’t say the characters are one dimensional, well the mother and the twins are. But that’s not my problem. My problem is that they aren’t sympathetic, so I don’t feel invested in any of the things that happen to them. And they are annoying. Again, my argument is not that The Witch is a bad movie, it’s that it’s a movie I don’t like. Which I think is a legitimate distinction. My problems are mostly personal surface level stuff, not deep tissue flaws. But it’s stuff I’m not going to get past.

            I just don’t care about these characters. I don’t find them interesting or compelling, and I don’t like spending time with them. And because the movie is so heavy and somber, because it takes itself so seriously, there’s nothing else for me to glob onto.

          • clytie

            I also didn’t find Black Phillip scary. I thought he was cute and wanted to pet him.

          • Cennywise The Ploughn

            They say the Devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he needed snuggles.

          • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

            I mean, I already re-watched “The Witch” last night (writing about it tomorrow), so I guess we may be litigating it eventually!)

    • Cennywise The Ploughn

      More original Twin Peaks The addition of Lynch’s hard-of-hearing FBI chief shows what a well of strange yet strangely-appropriate character quirks Lynch and Frost had to draw from, like prop room full of intangibles. Lynch’s expression might mean he’s trying to cope with facing the unknown and supernatural or just that he quite quite make out what anybody is saying.

      • Rucker and Cohlchez vs. Evil 🌹


        That’s from Twin Peaks: The Return, but I love it as an expression of both sides of his, er, expression like you described.

    • PCguy

      A pair of Spanish/Italian co-productions filmed in England. I’m assuming there is some sort of tax incentive here and possibly a multilateral picture like this could fulfill multiple domestic quotas. There’s obviously some sort of financial reasoning behind this.

      THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE aka. LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE aka. DON’T OPEN THE WINDOW (1974) presents languorous zombie horror in a gorgeously shot Lake District setting. A hippie on vacation runs into Cristina Galbó, of WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE fame, and ends up mixed up with a reactionary sheriff and a couple of zombies. What the living dead lack in quantity they make up for with the volume of gore their wounds inflict. As a precursor to DAWN OF THE DEAD this film is notable for its’ graphic special effects. As a movie—zombies are a drag to begin with and the characters in this spend a lot of time just driving around looking for trouble. The relentless movement is justified by the gorgeous hilly landscape—the print is crisp and the lush greens pop off the screen—but there aren’t enough thrills to sustain a feature film. Still, if your tolerance for zombies isn’t already shot you could do worse than this Italian flick.

      The print for ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (1972) is another story. The Techniscope cinematography starts off faded far to the red, meanders between crisp brightly lit interiors and blobby blurry psychedelic multiple exposures, and then climaxes in a frosty sequence that either had the film stock flashed (partially exposed prior to shooting) or they did something weird to the lens/aperture.

      The accuracy of the print doesn’t matter as the schizophrenic visual presentation fits perfectly with Sergio Martino’s (TORSO) direction. His camera constantly espies his female protagonist in the fashion of Hitchcock. Again and again we are ripped back from her perspective to a shot of her in the bed. This is a film that traffics deeply in dream logic and delights in blurring the difference between dreams and waking life.

      Jane (giallo veteran Edwidge Fenech) has been having terrible nightmares about a killer ever since she had a miscarriage. Her boyfriend, played by the ruggedly handsome genre lead George Hilton, is too busy to be of much help and her psychoanalyst has a hard time getting through to her. Seeking a different route to escape from her oneiric knife-wielding stalker she joins a satanic cult which works out about as well as you can expect. It’s a solid film that’s well paced and well plotted. There’s elements of giallo mixed in with a psychedelic ROSEMARY’S BABY vibe. Martino’s direction is perfectly suited for this picture. It’s structured like a night terror whereby the protagonist repeatedly descends into these wild freakout scenes only to wake up and have it happen all over again. The camera comes at these shots from all angles successfully capturing Jane’s descent into paranoia and cultish servitude. Solid 70’s Italian horror.

      • Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is one of my favourite zombie films, although part of that is local bias because most of it was shot near where I live (Peak District rather than Lake District, if you’ll forgive a little local pedantry). After watching it a couple of years ago I went out to visit a bunch of the filming locations, it was great fun!

        • PCguy

          Good call on that. Honestly, I just guessed on the geography so I hope I at least got close.

          As a Yank I love the mystical beauty of the countryside in this film. You see a corpse of trees in the middle of a sea of grass and are filled with the realization that the rest of the forest was cleared untold years ago by men who are impossibly remote from today but physically present in the legacy of the stone walls demarcating their progress in imposing their will on the environment. This manifestation of the past is furthered by that drop-dead gorgeous pathway to the cemetery. It’s beautiful and looks so old and timeless. The perfect location for a zombie movie.

          • Yeah, it’s a pretty common mixup!

            As a Brit I find that I’m drawn to films made in Britain by directors / filmmaking teams from outside. The way that “outsiders” portray Britain is a source of great entertainment to me, and it sometimes results in fascinating observations. I guess it’s similar to the way a lot of European directors have had a go at the US road movie, often to great effect.

    • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

      Scream: If one wanted to, a really good, dramatic story could be made about a slasher victim who has to live with the trauma/PTSD of the previous killer murdering everyone else they were close to, leaving them with a feeling of survivor’s guilt. This…is not that movie (though Craven gets close at times).

      Don’t get me wrong, I do like quite a few details here, especially how klutzy the Ghostface Killer is when he’s trying to murder one of the teenagers (how easy do you think it’s going to be to kill someone while wearing a mask that obscures your vision, with a robe that’s easy to trip over?), and David Arquette is memorably dorky in a way that’s both somewhat infuriating and endearing (not that the rest of Police Department is that great either. They don’t even secure a crime scene at the school’s football field from teens?) And Neve Campbell is great in this. Wish she did more movies. The relationship between her and Skeet Ulrich isn’t too shabby. One can see where Kevin Williamson was able to get his teen drama writing to shine with “Dawson’s Creek.”

      Scream 2: Overall, a really tightly written sequel, that plays amusingly on, well, horror movie sequelae. Liked the suspenseful scene of Sydney as Cassandra in an opera rehearsal trying to evade Ghostface (everyone else in the ensemble is already wearing masks and holding prop daggers, so it’s easy for him to blend in).

      Probably the most distracting part of this movie was seeing Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in college as a movie dork, but they had a nice arc for him, and whaddya know, Craven gave us the patented Olyphant glare, which I will share with the rest of you because I know what you like All in all, glad I saw this one too, but not sure I need anymore.

      • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

        I haven’t read any interviews to hear her side of it, but I thought Neve Campbell deserved a better career for sure. Flip side: kinda nice that Timothy Olyphant ended up getting a chance to show what he could do. He was the least sucky thing in a line of terrible projects for quite a while there.

        • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

          Seriously. Out of fun, I looked to see what other movies Roger Ebert covered that she had a starring role in besides this franchise.

          The last one he reviewed that wasn’t “Scream 4” was, uh, a James Toback movie. Which…given the allegations coming against him…certainly ain’t great in terms of career paths.

          • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

            I actually audibly (under my breath, but audibly) went “aww, come on” when I read that.

          • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

            Yuuuup. And as @sdelmonte:disqus noted above in talking about a podcast, the Weinsteins (yes, those guys) were Executive Producers on the first two (at least) movies of this franchise. (One hopes their role as Executive Producers limited their time on the set, but you can never be sure).

    • The Emoji Movie: Everybody got this wrong. This movie is terrible, but almost everybody involved thinks it’s supposed to be terrible. TJ Miller puts in the laziest performance as the lead character who’s supposed to be a Meh Emoji. Imagine a lead where his one emotion is supposed to be “everything sucks.” This is a movie where the obligatory joyous concluding dance party set to Lady Gaga is undercut by Mama Meh blandly saying “This is jazzy…” This is fuck everything salesmanship straight out of the 1990s. And it’s glorious. I may do a write up.

      Lady Macbeth – This is awesomely harsh. Sex and violence galore in a period piece about a woman whose husband will humiliate her but won’t fuck her, so she finds her own satisfaction. I loved it.

      200 Degrees (aka Burn) – This Saw ripoff is so lazy they forgot to change the title in the credits. Eric Balfour is a stock broker investment guy who wakes up in an industrial kiln and has to transfer money to save himself. The only item of clothing he ever takes off is his suit jacket and he barely even sweats (it’s a dry heat, Julius). You’d better believe if I was in a 150+ degree kiln, I’d be naked. Anyways, this movie is boring until a bunch of third act reveals almost redeems it. But it’s too little too late.

      Magic Mike XXL – Well that sucked. This movie lost me when the Bros make Mike prove his dedication by slumming it at a drag queen contest at a gay bar. It’s supposed to be “we’re cool with the gays” but it’s actually using the gay bar as an object. But the most insulting part is the audience at this gay bar contest is 95% mostly women. So, gay bars can be ghettoized and used as a “humiliating” initiation (similar to Team America’s “you have to suck my dick to prove yourself”) but then it won’t even allow the gays the dignity of being allowed to be in the audience. Later, the mostly white stripper troupe goes to a black stripper palace where white guy Mike is so much better a stripper than the other black strippers that only Mike can make it rain. FUCK THIS MOVIE. Then they barely ever get down to thongs, never show dick, and everybody swoons over these assholes. The movie ends with fireworks, but we never see them except as reflections in the dudes’ eyes. A fitting metaphor for a movie where we never get to see dick and who never deals with sexuality, or even stripper sexuality, in any sort of healthy manner. Yes, I enjoyed The Emoji Movie more than Magic Mike XXL. At least Emoji was honest about its commodification of the audience.

      Terror at Red Wolf Innhttps://youtu.be/y8j_GAIx65c

      • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

        Definitely appreciated your perspective on “Magic Mike XXL,” a movie that I’ve read a lot of good things about, but, uh, clearly has some massive blindspots on the sexuality spectrum.

        This may sound harsh, but this is where I can safely say I’m glad I didn’t catch this one, and only saw the first one (which at least inverts the “Star is Born, gets addicted to drugs, gets tossed out” mechanic)

        • I have a feeling my hating on Magic Mike XXL is going to rub some people the wrong way (or else they’ll say “it’s just Julius again”). The first one had a lot of things to say about the act of commodification and working for money in a post-crash world. The second inverts that good will back into a male fantasy about male strippers.

          • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

            I can understand the appeal the sequel held in terms of ‘celebrating women’s sexual urges,’ or whatever folderol they were saying in the first pass reviews, but, uh, the first one was definitely my speed (and dovetails nicely with Soderberghian themes of money and capitalism filmed through an observational, nonjudgmental lens).

      • I’m surprised and bummed nobody commented on the tender moment from Red Wolf Inn. It’s so good.

        • Cennywise The Ploughn

          I did email it to somebody saying it reminded me of the day I proposed to my wife.

    • Jake Gittes’ Doppelgänger

      Call Me by Your Name. Rapturous, from the first minute to the last. I didn’t have time to see Luca Guadagnino’s previous films beforehand – I hope I will in the immediate future, to see how he got to this point. But I’ll say this: I think you have to be almost supernaturally confident in and comfortable with yourself as an artist and as a human being to create something so unforced and warm and tender and funny and full of love, without drawing attention to all these and other qualities, even when you already have a superb novel and a very smartly adapted screenplay to rely on.

      The key, I think, is complexity of emotion combined with simplicity of storytelling. There are no antagonists here, no narrative contrivances, no opacity, not one moment in acting or cinematography or editing that’s more showy than it needs to be. People here experience feelings, and go on to accept those feelings and their physical and emotional consequences in themselves and each other, and that’s more than enough for a story. The movie, in turn, accepts and loves its characters, and follows what they go through, down to the most intimate moments, without intruding.

      In that spirit, this is a movie about a gay relationship that acknowledges the “gay” part of it, but its emotional beats remain universal – the initial curiosity, the longing, the question of “to speak or to die”, the passion, the sheer joy, the overall understanding that sometimes two people just find each other for whatever length of time and are immensely lucky to have done so, all of this is deeply felt and would be recognizable to anyone who has ever felt any of these things. On a more specific level, there’s the subtle weight gradually placed on common things and brief moments that people in a relationship share; here, over the course of a few weeks, they casually find their places, their in-jokes, their song, even their particular fruit that they’ll never see in the same way again (and neither will the audience).

      That last thing is one that made me think of Before Sunrise, with its climactic montage of places its characters visited (something like that wouldn’t work for this film as effectively, though, and Guadagnino wisely avoids it, instead placing a little more emphasis on places and things right in the moment). Another thing is the setting and atmosphere that feels almost impossibly perfect – the Italian Riviera in the ’80s, all verdant greens and deep light blues and enveloping sunshine, late dinners under the trees, gorgeous, intelligent, open-minded, articulate men and women enjoying each other’s company. If there’s one element of the film I can imagine getting some criticism, it’s this, though I’d argue that in the end it keeps itself anchored thanks to entirely lived-in performances and a clear-eyed emotional honesty where it counts. Besides, how much does idealization matter when it’s so damn beautiful? I could have watched this movie for days. Hell, I want to live in it. It encourages you to be ever more kind and generous and open, leading by example. It casts a spell, and the spell works. I usually try not to do this with films I’ve only seen once and before most people have got their chance to, but I’m tempted to call this a masterpiece.

    • somewhat shocking silverwheel

      The Shield: “Possible Kill Screen/Family Meeting” – Hot Take: this is pretty good.
      – “Last Call: The Final Episode” – I usually don’t care about the “we love each other and/or you all” special features, but this was wonderful. I was genuinely moved by Walton Goggins losing his shit in thanks to everyone else for helping him to become the artist he always knew he could be, by Jay Karnes almost losing his for the same reason, by all of it (you liked…all of it?). Perhaps more than any other great show, there’s an incredible bond among everyone who worked on it for a long time that really shines through in the commentaries and featurettes, and everyone is very aware of how lucky they are to have had such amazing personal and professional blessings. They are fucking proud, as they should be. Other observations: how weird was it to see Benito Martinez on set but out of character, wearing a t-shirt and leather jacket? Also: Dave Snell out of character almost makes Ronnie look impulsive and eccentric by comparison – he’s so damn professional and controlled in his personal demeanor – why in the sam hell didn’t Michael Mann cast him in every movie from Collateral onward? He’s also amazingly handsome in that suit – I think my man-crush on him is now progressing into regular crush. Sub-question – do you think Snell could have nailed the Tom Cruise role in Collateral? I say yes.

      • The other special feature there, on the dismantling of the Barn, is both beautiful and uncanny. To see perhaps the most unsetlike set on television taken apart and packed into boxes–that’s some Greenaway-level shit.

        Snell could have nailed Vincent in Collateral but you’d have to do a rewrite, ‘cuz there’s no way Snell doesn’t put that first shot right through Max’s eye. Someone here noted that Vincent is closer to Magnolia‘s F. T. J. Mackey than he thinks–they’re both cracking up, Vincent is just doing it more quietly.

      • GhostZ

        Extra sad note from “Last Call”: this was also shortly after Walton Goggins’s first wife’s suicide. (They were going through a divorce, so I’m sure the feelings involved there were complicated, but I think it’s reasonably safe to say he had even more of a reason right then to be grateful for their emotional support.)

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        I was gonna comment on these episodes today but there was a power outage, sigh, but yeah god Snell is so fucking good in this series.

    • Spooky Narrator Man

      Suburbicon: Just as bad as Julius promised, alas. The black family subplot is a complete nightmare (the family has little dialogue and even less characterization beyond stoically suffering in the face of hatred; even Stanley Kramer would gag watching this), and the final shot is one of the most ludicrously false notes I’ve seen a movie end on in recent memory. But I was most surprised by the extent to which Clooney made a mess of the Coensy part (it should almost go without saying that these two parts never once fit together, and, for a movie with the guts to stick it to 1950s racists and segregation, the two plots are almost completely segregated, with the same level of “separate but equal”ness). This probably would have never been a great movie in anyone else’s hands, even the Coen brothers, but it would at least be good for a few laughs, while here Clooney’s approach is so stodgy and straight that it kills any joke before you even get the chance to recognize it as a joke (the trailer editors have a better idea of how to make a comedy than Clooney does; Clooney can’t even get a laugh out of the objectively funny sight of Matt Damon peddling away from anger on a child’s bike). Oscar Isaac briefly makes this fizz like it should in his five minutes of screentime, but he’s out as soon as he comes in, and we’re back to tedium.

      Blank Check with Griffin and David: K-19: The Widowmaker: You know a Richard Lawson episode is gonna be great, and this one is just that. This movie is so dull and dour that there’s really only so much material you can milk from it, but they do examine why the film is so dramatically inert, and even talk about it in the context of Bigelow’s later “documentary” work. And there’s still plenty of room for lengthy discussions of Harrison Ford’s 90s work, Sam Mendes, the gruesomeness of Alan Pakula’s death, and the Leprechaun series (David’s line “Does the rainbow go to space?” about Leprechaun 4: In Space is a thing of beauty).

      The Shield, “Posse Up”: “Previously on The Shield” is back, and it’s showing pretty much the entirety of the last three episodes. Also, Lem’s “heh, rimjobs” is just beautiful.

    • clytie

      Friday: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: I found this episode painful to watch, because I’ve had what Rebecca did to Josh done to me multiple times, by multiple people, and in some of those cases left permanent damage.

      On a more cheerful note, I re-watched Hocus Pocus. I always forget what a strange movie this is. From it’s obsession with virginity to the strange total shifts where the movie becomes completely different movies. Somehow it all works.

      Also, did anyone cover it for Year of the Month?

      Saturday: I watched the last part of the Oxygen series on missing person Maura Murray. After watched it, my takeaway was different that that of the series. I think she disappeared on purpose, they took the position that she was murdered.

      Also, did anyone hear about the 3 separate people that were missing for decades that were discovered alive last week?

      I always re-watched Leprechaun. It still sucks. Though Jennifer Aniston’s old nose is pretty frightening.

      Sunday: The Walking Dead. I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about this episode.

      • Rucker and Cohlchez vs. Evil 🌹

        We’re talking the most recent Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, right? This show moves through plot so fast. At least we got some reasonable resolution by the end of the episode, although I’m still baffled as to why so many of Josh’s friends believed the article, knowing what they know about Rebecca, and how long they’ve known Josh. Especially the part where Hector basically says she’s the smart one so she’s probably telling the truth– she’s the one capable of being conniving and manipulative in a way Josh just isn’t.

        • clytie

          Yes, that’s the episode. I bought it because in one of the instances where it happened to me, my friends believed a total stranger. They were internet friends, but still. In another, someone super-close to me IRL believed someone he didn’t know very well at all about me.

          Josh has been exhibiting some pretty extreme behavior recently (as was I prior to the incident with my close friend), so I think that makes it easier for them to think the worst is Josh. Also, Rebecca being so smart knew exactly what buttons to push.

    • Crimson Pico

      Lots o’ horror:

      The Wailing may be the most confounding horror movie I’ve ever seen. Ostensibly about a mysterious disease that may or may not have otherworldly origins, some of the set pieces are magnificent, especially a midpoint battle of shamanistic rituals, and the climax, which reminded me of nothing so much as The Vanishing in its desperate impossibility. But it does not make sense, and even the director’s explanations in interviews just underscore how the schema he set up do not make sense. I’ve found an interpretation that at least gives me some coherence, but it’s clearly not the intended one (it’s better, frankly).

      Under the Shadow, aka the Iranian Babadook, which takes a bit too long to get going and kinda underwhelms in the last moments, but has a really gripping second half otherwise. A mother and child wait out the air raids in Iraq war-era Tehran, and might also have a malevolent djinn to contend with. At its best, the sense of isolation and abandonment is almost suffocating, and my favorite shock moment was when the mother mistakenly thinks she’s dragged the ‘wrong’ daughter to the basement, yikes. Effective enough – just wish it’d have found a final moment to bring it all home.

      First two eps of Stranger Things, season 2, which are… aggressively fine.

      The latest Walking Dead, which at least kept moving.

      Half of Star Trek Beyond before falling asleep.

      Going to see John Carpenter in concert on Halloween night, so I think I won this year.

    • Rucker and Cohlchez vs. Evil 🌹

      NFL Football. Primarily Bears at Saints, of course. Alas, it didn’t occur to me to engage in some friendly banter with @disqus_wallflower:disqus until he messaged me after the game. (Give me a break, I was up til 4, had to get up at 8 to check lineups, and again at 11:45 for the games.) Saints are legit. But I do think this Trubisky kid has some traits I like– primary his pocket presence and his astounding accuracy on deep balls– though he needs a lot of experience. Also saw a lot of Texans at Seahawks and am very mad that Bill O’Brien didn’t give Deshaun Watson a chance to get that final first down. The Texans might be 5-2 if O’Brien had the guts to let Watson try to close the game against the Patriots and Seahawks, instead of “trusting a defense” that had been bad to that point in both games and is also missing something like four of its top five defenders from last year.

      World Series, Game 4. Well, that was a shitty ninth inning. I also learned a valuable lesson about putting on a comedy show on Halloween weekend and the same night the home team is playing a World Series game. (The lesson: Don’t.)

      World Series, Game 5. And here I thought Game 2 was going to be the heart-stopper of the series.

    • Man with a robot arm

      The Devil Rides Out – This arrived the same year as Rosemary’s Baby, but instead of the slow burn of that film, The Devil Rides Out is fast moving from the start. It brings what was hinted and whispered at for much RB to the fore early on. The sinister opening credits with Eliphas Levi’s image of Baphomet and other occult imagery doesn’t attempt to hide anything. Ruminants have never been scarier than the Goat of Mendes, spirit animal to Slayer fans. In the film Baphomet appears in an all too brief but striking scene, the image remains the most memorable from the film.

      This may be Hammer’s smartest film with its theme of freewill and intellectual curiosity controlled by the rich. By this time Christopher Lee was wanting a heroic role in a Hammer film and he gets one here. He plays Duc de Richleau as an occult detective. His opponent is Charles ‘No Neck’ Gray as the cult leader. Hammer’s best director, Terence Fisher, is on board filming in the high-key lighting and beautiful Technicolor Hammer was known for.

  • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

    And while we’re at it, what have we been reading?

    • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

      Mason & Dixon, Thomas Pynchon
      I’m still amusing myself with the Myers-Briggs stuff, and I find myself wondering if the difference between MB types is that each is stimulated by a different word – INFJs being stimulated by Vision, ISTPs being stimulated by Sensation, ENFJs being stimulated by Justice – and I wonder if ENFPs are stimulated by History (distinct from Tradition or Community), and if so that Pynchon’s books both show and reward an ENFP view of the world.

      I have to read it either very slowly so I understand every word and the purpose of every word, or very quickly as the details all start to blend together. Either way, it feels like I’m doing it wrong; this isn’t an insult, it’s just really overstimulating. I found myself wondering if I should research the book before, during, or after reading it; I tentatively have settled on ‘during’.

      (I contrast this with Tarantino, who I believe shows a cinematic ENFP viewpoint; I’m less exhausted by overstimulation because the first time through, I can focus on the characters only, and everything else reveals itself to me on subsequent watches.)

      American Gods, Neil Gaiman
      Infinitely easier to read, but far less interesting than M&D. This is my first actual Gaiman novel, but I’ve read some comics, seen some movies and read Good Omens, and I’m often frustrated that his works, however stylish and entertaining in the moment, always end up leaving me unsatisfied; he reminds me of criticisms of Tarantino, in that his works feel like masturbatory celebration of storytelling. While both have unparalleled imagination for style (with Gaiman having a very clear edge), Tarantino’s characters have the density, history, and uniqueness of real people; Gaiman’s characters feel exactly like every other Hero/Mentor/Whatever that came before with a new coat of paint.

      Originally, I wrote a snarky Myers-Briggs thing here (specifically, that Gaiman leaned so hard on his introversion that he’s ended up liking the general idea of people more than the practicalities, which has lead him to very shallow too-clever-by-half characterisation), but I ended up looking at the story from that POV and it actually made more sense; Gaiman is INFP, and looking at him as stimulated by sensation and having little interest in articulating those sensations in any concrete way means the buildup of seemingly pointless details makes more sense.

      The Big Nowhere, James Ellroy
      Don’t wanna actually talk about it until I’ve finished it, but Danny is gay and I totally called it.

      • GhostZ

        Gaiman was one of my absolute favorite authors in high school, but my admiration has tapered off a lot since then: I still like him, and I find his very conscious, very present authorial voice highly readable and mostly charming, but I think you hit the nail on the head about how the style dresses up the substance without particularizing it. For this reason, I think the work of his that will last best, with me and with history, is Sandman, where the characters must be archetypes by necessity and where the fact that Dream is not a person is part of his tragedy.

        • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

          If nothing else, I admire Gaiman for being cute without ever falling into twee, something the people he influenced have a lot of trouble with.

          Starting with American Gods might have been a mistake, though it does mean I get the full Neil Gaiman treatment. I like Shadow, but I find it interesting that why I like Shadow is less to do with what I’d traditionally consider a good character (e.g. action, philosophy, even personality) and more that it’s fun to watch his essentially have opinions of things; he studies the world and decides how he feels about it. It’s a very alien approach to storytelling.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Shadow was probably my biggest issue with the book and I think I prefer the series because Shadow by default has to be a stronger, more realistic character (I particularly like the series depiction that this is a guy who was a bit like Wednesday, a fun con artist, but has been hardened in prison by necessity).

          • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

            Are your issues in terms of the mode he’s written in, or to do with the politics of the story?

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I’d say the mode he’s written in. Shadow in the novel is more of a cypher but its hard to be very compelled by his inner journey as a result.

          • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

            It’s funny, because I know you’re right, but at the same time there’s so much that’s particular about Shadow and his inner life (like how much of his reactions to things are filtered through jail) that I can recognise Gaiman’s playing a different game than what I’m used to. Like I say, it’s a frustrating game (and I think will be ultimately unsatisfying) but I’m at least trying to play by his rules.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Yeah I can understand that – Shadow and Dream are similar in terms of their reactive quality but I think Dream is a much stronger character, in particular because his lack of being is a tragic flaw – this isn’t entirely who he is, its a serious problem.

        • I want to like Gaiman’s work, but it tends to come across as the declarations of a clever man who wants everyone to see he’s clever. The only thing by him I like is 1602 for Marvel, and most Gaimanites can’t stand that one. (I have my qualms about him as a person as well, but he seems like a good public face for SF and fantasy for the most part.)

          • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

            That’s the comic by him I’ve read, and I loved it right up until that fucking climax where Mr Fantastic is all “It seems universe actually runs on stories!”, which I found so wanky I would have thrown the book against the wall if I weren’t reading it in a library.

            By contrast, AG puts all the pontificating on stories before demonstrating it.

      • Miller

        “Gaiman leaned so hard on his introversion that he’s ended up liking the general idea of people more than the practicalities”

        This is very astute. I prefer Gaiman’s short stories, where sketching characters is more appropriate and the point is to get them into bad situations — he’s an excellent horror writer when he goes full-bore.

      • I’m rereading Mason and Dixon too (we know why) and one of the things that hits me this time is how right the diction and typography is for Pynchon. His style actually hasn’t changed here (it does in Against the Day) it just becomes more itself with the spiraling sentences and whimsical capitalizations.

        • Crimson Pico

          This might sound really, really unfair to Pynchon’s pre-M&D work, but he was never a prose writer in the Flaubert line (where every word matters, precisely) until M&D, and it turns out to be a really invigorating shift for him. Sez I.

      • Son of Griff

        You are tackling 2 of my favorite 90s (The Pynchon and Ellroy) reading experiences simultaneously. Personally, I’ve avoided Gaiman because I know that he would have been a favorite of mine if it appeared when I was in my teens or twenties, but I just sense that its the sort of work that doesn’t hold my interest as much anymore. I’d like to think I’m wrong, and I’ll push it put it on my list.

        Not long after I started reading M&D for the first time, I just made a promise to myself to just do 12 pages a day to absorb it and flow to its own pace, rhythm and detail. I completely fell in love with it.

        • Napoleon Of The Living Drunk

          I’m glad it has very short chapters, because one chapter a day is the only pace I can handle, and even then that’s pushing it.

    • Bhammer100

      All month long, in honor of the Halloween season, I’ve been reading H.P. Lovecraft for the first time. I got this really nice hardcover from Barnes and Noble that collects all of his fiction (or most, I guess it doesn’t collect his ghost writing). I only got about 400 pages in, I’m thinking I will pick it back up next year. I stopped with “The Call of Cthulhu,” figured it would be a good place to stop. Ancient monsters. Cosmic horror. Good shit for Halloween.

      I also started reading Armadale by Wilkie Collins.

      • I know that edition – it’s actually one of the best ones out there (is it all his stuff, or just the Cthluhu mythos)? I love his (non-racist) ideas, though his prose wears me down. He’s the epitome of a “problematic fav”.

        • Bhammer100

          I got the edition with all of his stories.The Cthulhu Mythos edition also has a beautiful cover.

        • Crimson Pico

          I don’t know of any other “classic” writer whose prose style is so bad that I was that shocked the first time I read him. Also, “The Mountains of Madness” turns out to be a bad place to start. (Had somewhat better luck with “The Dunwich Horror,” but the prose is still – by far – the weakest part.)

          • Bhammer100

            I guess I never had a big problem with his prose. I thought it added a lot to the unsettling quality a lot of his stories have. But his prose can get a little too over-written sometimes.

    • Took me six weeks to finish Ron Chernow’s Washington. It wasn’t as well written as the other books I’ve read by him – I think the only thing from his collection I have not ready yet is House of Morgan – and Chernow had a really hard time dealing with Washington as a reluctant but determined slaveowner, and with the mixed abilities of Washington as a general. (I feel he was a bit too kind in regards to the former, and really didn’t want to admit that Washington was not a great strategist.) Overall, the book was interesting and comprehensive, but the claims that it covers new ground that earlier bios don’t seems overblown. Still, if you have the patience and like that era, it’s not bad. Now to gear up for his book on US Grant.

      Slowly making my way through a collection of Continentlal Op stories by Hammett. They are well written but repetitive. Also reading a pretty good book on the FIFA scandals by British journalist David Conn and a light bio of Casey Stengel.

      • GhostZ

        Chernow’s Washington is readable and thorough, but I’m absolutely with you on the idea that Chernow liked Washington way too much to write a first-rate biography of him. He also bends over backwards to paint Washington’s mother in the worst light possible, consistently interpreting her letters to him in the worst light possible and making all kinds of unsubstantiated inferences, which started to get on my nerves.

        • I was more annoyed with how Chernow was determined to tear down John Adams, as if he took it personally that David McCullough wrote a better book on Adams than he did on Hamilton. But yeah, it was George and Mother Harridan, the only instance in here of what could be called an outright sexist portrayal.

    • Cennywise The Ploughn

      Finished The Daily Show: The Book and am just about to start Moonglow by Michael Chabon by myself and Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver with the wife. Both are favorites of mine. AD is as well-observed as any of Kingsolver’s others, and sneakily absorbing for something with less of a hook than some of her others.

      I’ve loved Chabon from the first paragraph of his I’ve read and I’m not far enough in to gauge this one, though my expectations are always high. Telegraph Avenue was pretty disliked among the people I knew who read it, but I enjoyed it (Obama POV chapter notwithstanding).

    • I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane – James Ellroy lite. Tough, violent men exacting their own justice. Mike Hammer vows to kill the man who killed his friend who saved him during the War. Not as well-written as other hardboiled I’ve read, but serviceable. It’s a simple book with a simple understanding of right and wrong, and those who are wrong deserve lead in their gut.

      It must be a tough life, being Mike Hammer. Knowing how to kick ass while beautiful women drop their skirts in his presence? Yeah, really rough being him.

      The climax was great: the killer was his lover, Charlotte, and she attempts to seduce him into not killing her. When she embraces him, he shoots her point-blank in the stomach. Watching her die, he notices she was reaching for a gun behind him. She asks how could he kill the woman he loves, and he replies, “It was easy.” Goddamn, that is a hard, hard man.

      • Miller

        I read I, The Jury and Twilight roughly back-to-back and wound up seeing a lot of similarities — the prose is basic at best but propulsive and the leads are fantasy power figures, with Hammer being the male* fantasy of unencumbered action, the pure subject, and Bella being the female* fantasy of radiant desire, the pure object. And interestingly, both use the withholding of sex to maintain their power (look at how Hammer responds to the dropped skirts, they want him but he denies or at least delays his essence). But I’m not going to deny that Jury is a blast to read.

        *the gendering here is super reductive, but these are super reductive books

        • I am not surprised at all at Spillane’s success with Hammer. He’s a grittier, more American Bond. Blew through the book in 2 days. It’s titillating but not pornographic (good catch re: denial), and violence is always well-served. I much preferred The Long Goodbye, which I also read recently, but that’s a difficult, sombre novel. I, the Jury was a blast.

          • Miller

            Shorter Spillane:
            “Hammer, honey, we love you!”
            “Shut up baby I know it.”

    • GhostZ

      Somehow bereft of my usual sense of seasonal appropriateness, a biography of Hans Christian Andersen, which was both really good and really illuminating of how little I know about the history of really any country that’s not America or England. But now I can impress people with my knowledge of the whys and wherefores of the peak period of Danish artistic culture, assuming that’s the kind of thing that impresses them.

      Starting today, to hopefully finish tomorrow, Sturgeon’s Some of Your Blood.

    • Miller

      Various things but the highlight over the weekend was Saki’s Gabriel-Ernst, a typically sly and nasty story with an excellent and withering character sketch grounding the horror. And it’s online: http://www.online-literature.com/hh-munro/1821/

      • Crimson Pico


        Saki is so f’n great. I was going to post a favorite detail from that story, but there are too many.

    • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

      Still stuck in “The Dain Curse,” which, due to the season, I haven’t gotten back into.

      Should be easier in Noir…vember to finish up.

    • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

      I am reading a really tremendously lot about the exact mechanisms by which Colorado legalized marijuana, which, I need to get in the habit of actually reading all these laws people keep debating. That’s parly because every time I do there’s something I didn’t know about it in there, and also because I’m convinced that the only people who actually do so otherwise are the cops and the robbers. (Congressfolks read the Committee summary, natch.)

      Anyway, Sweet Sticky-Icky in the Mile High City: this whole coop thing should get interesting. (For the unaware who are still reading this, the law allowed for up to individuals to keep up to six plants for their private use, so some morally unconcerned – and heavily armed – individuals went around getting people to say that they’d keep their six “personal” plants all at the same address, that just happens to be owned by this extranational collective who could perhaps offer them some financial compensation for not keeping their own grow, etc. etc. etc.)

    • Jake Gittes’ Doppelgänger

      Call Me by Your Name, the day before I saw the movie. Don’t have nearly as much to say about it, especially since the adaptation is pretty close, but most if not all nuances in its inner monologue of a young introvert romantically obsessed with a slightly older person rang extremely true.

    • Son of Griff

      I just started Kurt Anderson’s polemic on American irrationality FANTASYLAND, which includes the germ of a fascinating historical topic made reductive by making Trumpism it’s end product yet too broad and unwieldy in terms of its scope to serve as a critique. There are some nuggets as to the degree in which anti-enlightenment thought has always permeated the American consciousness, but the unquestioning nature of the author’s investment in reason shuts down a more nuanced reflection of the issue.

      I’ve also been re-reading section of Mike Davis’ CITY OF QUARTZ and Norman Klein’s THE HISTORY OF FORGETTING to provide a bit of focus for some Noir-vember posts.

    • Crimson Pico

      Got to meet Eve Ewing this week and chat with her for a few minutes after a reading of her poetry, so that was a major highlight. Otherwise:

      Y.B. Mangunwijaya’s The Weaverbirds, an epic of 20th century Indonesian history, which is unfortunately just okay. It’s his most popular novel, but definitely reads (at least in translation) like an amateur, which is something he freely acknowledged. How that amateur writer put out a masterpiece like Durga/Umayi a few years later, I have no idea, but that’s one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had, so that makes this one even more of a letdown.

      Working my way through the short story/poetry collection Axis of Evil, collected works from countries like Iran, North Korea, and Libya. So for so great – major kudos to the editors and translators for picking such a compelling selection – with the exception of the first story from North Korea, which reads like the worst socialist realist fiction from the Soviet 1930s. I get why they included it, but… hard pass.

  • Defender Of The Dark Arts

    Maybe I’m desensitized, but the last PG-13 horror movie that scared me was The Ring back in 2002. Violence and an R rating doesn’t make a good horror movie, but it does let the viewer know that (almost) anything can happen. I need the uncertainty that the filmmakers might be insane enough to show me something that I’ve never seen before, that scares me. Unlike a 12-13yr old I’ve seen some shit…oh yes, I’ve seen some shit. A horror movie with a PG-13 rating is a financial decision and not a creative one.

    • Miller

      The rating isn’t the problem, it’s the story told in the rating. The Ring is a great example, it is in many ways a children’s ghost story and that can be told without blood and fucking. Bernard Rose made the R-rated Candyman, a story about sex and lynching and the hell of urban project living, and these are all things that need to be shown in an adult way to be true to their horror, but he also made the super-creepy Paperhouse, which is told from the perspective of a child and uses that perspective’s intense emotion and dream logic to get plenty of scares on a PG rating. Calibrate the scares to the rating and PG-13 and under are fine.

      • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

        Same for me with “Coraline,” a genuinely creepy movie that’s watchable (arguably) for kids of a certain age and mindset. Loved that movie, but there’s definitely universal creepy stuff in there you can do without resorting to the mess of gore and other nonsense that all too often takes up bandwidth in an R-rated horror movie (look no further than “Hostel” or the “Saw” franchise, where the sole purpose of the rating is to squick audiences out).

        I definitely don’t mind the bloody disgusting stuff, but there better be a real reason for it (look no further than the original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” which has very little blood in it, but the suggestion is horrifying enough).

        • Miller

          Great call on Coraline (and tying back to the book thread, the novella is one of the best things Gaiman has done).

          • Departed Hunchback (errrr…)

            Haven’t read any of Gaiman’s works, though I suppose that’s as good a place as any to start!

    • Cennywise The Ploughn

      I know where you’re coming from and for me it depends on what kind of scare I’m looking for. I’m creeped out by scary situations and psychological horror and usually movies successfully using these things last the longest in my memory. But what I’m truly in-the-moment scared of is being shown sudden violence (I want to clarify that this is not a traumatic or triggered reaction, it’s still in the realm of movie fun scares). If I know there’s a limit to the body count or blood or viscera in play, there is a more measured reaction to that in-the-moment fear I’ll experience. For example, when watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre a couple weeks ago, I would be less unnerved knowing it’s PG-13 because the horror experience is largely surface level – will I be presented with a character being treated like meat? – as opposed to Poltergeist where I’m drawn in by the haunted house thrills and the parents’ desperation to keep their kids safe.

    • I say it’s PG-13 but it might actually be R for no apparent reason.

  • Over the weekend, a new Mousterpiece Cinema podcast dropped. It was supposed to be Scream 2. It was Ed Wood instead. Why? Because Harvey Weinstein was the producer of Scream 2. The show’s hosts, Josh Spiegel and Scott Renshaw, have decided to not cover any more Miramax films from the five years the Weinsteins were partnering with Disney. Which makes a lot of sense to me. Except that in covering Ed Wood, they traded down from the serial molester and monster to someone accused just the one time of domestic abuse.

    I am not criticizing Scott and Josh. They acknowledge often how hard it is to address what happens off the screen, and seem genuine uncomfortable with the entirety of the Hollywood Nightmare Machine. It’s more just that they illustrating once more how hard it is to review movies, to love movies, at this strange and painful moment. Even as they never deny how much they benefit from white male privilege.

  • Cennywise The Ploughn

    A recommendation in case someone is looking for a horror film about those damn kids and their technology these days: Unfriended is actually pretty damn good.

    • Unfriended is good. As is The Den. It’s not hard to make these social media horror movies great on the cheap.

  • David Bergmann

    Haven’t read any of Gaiman’s works, though I suppose that’s as good a place as any to start!