• unDead Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • unDead Napoleon

      The Wicker Man, Neil Labute
      “Sorry, you’re gonna have to bear with me.”

      So, continuing my trawl through old favourites, I’ve reached post-college, when I was in my Marvin The Paranoid Android stage of unemployment and depression. My interest in film dropped to near-nil at this point, becoming more preoccupied with the time sinks of television and video games – I saw Community, Breaking Bad, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and eight out of nine seasons of Dragon Ball Z at this time. Movies, to be frank, did not kill nearly enough time to preoccupy me, and what I did watch was motivated by either a passing whim – I saw Casablanca, Blade Runner, the Dollars trilogy, and of all things East Of Eden – or, much more often, by whether or not I could share them with my best friend, who I lived with for a year. What we shared was a love of ripping the shit out of movies we watched, and no movie better shows what and how we watched than The Wicker Man (2006).

      It was shocking, coming back, to see how the film is actually ruthlessly plotted. Everything exists as a piece of the puzzle, establishing some idea or fact that will come together in that final scene; it’s just the characters don’t act according to plausible behaviour, a lot of the pieces are patently absurd, and the final scene raises the big question, why did you go through all that effort of messing with his head and making him run around the island when you could have just broken his legs and sacrificed him as soon as he landed? Similarly, Cage’s performance is perfectly logical, showing a man growing increasingly desperate and willing to turn to violent measures and threats to get what he wants before finally succumbing to pure terror, it’s just a) Cage is, as typical, unafraid of losing his dignity and b) the story’s details are too absurd for the audience to take him seriously.

      This movie did actually solidify my opinion of Cage as an actor. People ask, is Nicolas Cage a good actor or a bad actor? There’s a whole episode of Community dedicated to answering this question, and to my frustration even that doesn’t get what Nicolas Cage is about. Nicolas Cage is not a good actor or a bad actor, because that’s not the game he’s playing. His goal is simple: create a single, unique character, and he enjoys risking absurdity to get there; I think his process is to start off somewhere normal and push against the director to see how far into absurdity he can go, and I think you can see that clearer in this movie than any other. Assuming it was shot in mostly chronological order, in his early scenes, he’s practically sedate, and you can see him beginning to experiment in the scene where he bangs his badge on the bar and tells everyone he’s a cop, and his energy just keeps building and building through the film.

      All of this works to make the movie ripe for riffing on and later referencing. The movie is, through both the worldview of the writer/director and the dedication of Cage, emotionally open enough to plumb some absurd depths, and the genre structure means the movie is never boring to watch – almost the reverse of the profundity of Leone and Carpenter taking their worldviews for granted, and for the same reason.

      Also: holy shit, Molly Parker (aka Alma Garret on Deadwood) is in this movie.

      Ownage count: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqCkPBgrgw8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW-B11xQEws

      Zodiac, David Fincher.
      Rewatched in preparation for an upcoming essay, and originally I was gonna put whatever leftover notes I had here, but I ended up using them all in an essay, so I’ll just say fuck it’s a good movie. Deceptively tight, too; I never noticed until this watch that every single scene is about the Zodiac investigation, with many scenes being exclusively about it and skipping over all the unnecessary shit (think that very brief stop-in with the couple who solve the initial Zodiac letter before cutting back to Paul saying they solved it). Also, deceptively funny – “This can no longer be ignored” is the line I end up reusing a lot, but there’s a lot of deadpan humour floating through the film.

      Ownage count: “I’m not the Zodiac. And if I were, I certainly wouldn’t tell you.”

      LOST, Season One, Episode Thirteen, “Special”
      “You listened to your old man when you were ten, right?”
      “Uh, yeah. Probably a little too much.”

      “I’m a lawyer, sweetheart. I know when someone’s stalling.”

      This episode follows the lead of the previous one in that it allows a character to ‘fix’ themselves; Michael and Walt forge a relationship, and on a more plotty level it’s got the beginning of the raft. In this case, the flashbacks imbue meaning onto the island drama in that it shows how difficult Michael’s choice to be a father is. In terms of mythology, it shows Walt has secret powers, and creates the possibility that he’s somehow mentally creating the polar bears.

      In terms of the whole daddy issues thing, Michael is obviously his own perfectly reasonable thing, and Brian is another man who simply admits he’s unable to be a father, like Claire’s boyfriend before, and to some extent Christian Shepard.

      The effect of “Hearts And Minds” is actually stronger than the episode itself. Obviously, Boone blowing off Shannon for Locke is powerful, but it’s even in the little things, like Boone attacking Michael to defend Locke.

      At the end of the episode, Locke and Boone are looking for Vincent, and they hear something in the bushes; Boone says “Vincent? Is that you?” and I said “Yeah, it’s me”, and the fact that I’m pretty sure I made that joke on first airing did not stop me laughing for several minutes at my own stupid joke.

      Ownage count: Boone attacks Michael to protect Locke.

      Rick And Morty, Season Three, Episode Nine, “The ABCs of Beth”
      “Am I evil?”
      “Worse. You’re smart.”

      It was so nice just to have a classic R&M plot again, even if it wasn’t literally Rick with Morty. The increased cynicism of the characters is my favourite aspect of the show, so a story about how cynical the entire family is was right up my alley, and it was nice to see literally everyone moving forward in some way; Rick basically lays out what I laid out at the start, about being smart enough to get away with being yourself. Also, it was funny as fuck – I couldn’t pick one funny line and resorted to the one I had the strongest emotional reaction to. Rick using the phrase “cross your socio-path” was pretty high though.

      Interestingly, since coming to that conclusion about Rick being someone too smart to have to recognise himself, I recognised that same tendency in someone I knew (it’s none of you guys). Studying pop culture served a purpose.

      Rick And Morty, Season Three, Episode Ten, “The Rickchurian Mortydate”
      I nearly shat myself when Rick said that smart people don’t have to recognise themselves.

      Anyway, what seemed like finally an old-fashioned R&M adventure, with Rick fighting President Keith David, turned into a total reboot of the show’s structure as the family finally lets go of Rick. It’s like the show heard me and Ruck, as the show acknowledges Rick’s dickishness and lets it affect his relationships with his family, letting them all grow, and completely inverts the whole “this’ll be our darkest year ever” thing.

      (I was so sick of being a week behind everyone)

      • ZoeZ

        I picked The Wicker Man remake for a friend’s mock-a-bad-movie birthday party recently and a good time was had by all: it’s awful and inexplicable, but it’s committed to its strangeness. This isn’t Sharknado, winking at the audience about how goofy and bad it is; this is committed to a vision on a Tommy Wiseau level, made by people with more talent but seemingly the same loose grasp on the reality of How People Act. “What’s in the bag, a shark or something?”

        I also use “this can no longer be ignored” a lot.

        I suspect that “depression viewing” would make for an unfortunately fruitful taco break discussion sometime. I went in the opposite direction–I couldn’t really watch TV, because the commitment required felt overwhelming, so the only thing I could really do was tell myself that if I sat in front of the TV for two hours and watched a movie, I would have accomplished something. I knocked out a couple of classics that way, actually, though I probably didn’t appreciate them like I should. It was… an unfun time, but I remain grateful to the movies for providing a lifeline.

        • unDead Napoleon

          I fucking despise the Sharknado series – even ignoring the utter cynicism of the production ruining the fun, I’ve heard really awful things about Asylum’s production standard, hiring kids right out of film school and underpaying them where they can.

          Video games were the number one, because a) they generally take up at least 24 hours of time (and I was preoccupied most of all with both Mass Effect, which at the time took up a total of fifty hours a runthrough, and Left 4 Dead, which takes up at least an hour and a half at a time), b) require your complete constant attention, and c) are ownage generating experiences, which is pretty much what a depressed person wants.

          • The Ploughman

            Having had some light dealings with people around Asylum, I’ll say their biggest strength and weakness is their complete awareness of what they are and what they make. Unfortunately, and unrelated to this, they are not very good filmmakers. And underpaying young talent is a sadly common game.

      • Babalugats

        Is Nick Cage a good actor?

        My take, is that he’s a very gifted comedic actor and a passable dramatic one. He has excellent charisma, fair depth, limited range, and interesting taste. There’s a question of how self aware he is. He definitely has a massive ego, but I would say pre-tax desperation, Cage usually fit his performance to the film quite well. His Con Air or National Treasure performances absolutely make those movies more memorable and engaging, and when he pops up in something like Bringing Out The Dead he’s much more subdued and naturalistic.

        His real gift has always been comedy though, and I wish he could find his way back to the Coens.

        • unDead Napoleon

          This is a fair take on him.

      • I actually didn’t like the “evil/smart” line in “ABCs of Beth,” because it felt like a rationalization of a lot of the worst fan interpretations of the show. Being smart doesn’t make you an asshole–Rick’s fucked up experiences have made him that way, and while his intelligence may have been a gateway to that, I don’t think it’s accurate of him at all to say that about Beth. I liked the episode as a whole, but that line rubbed me wrong.

        • unDead Napoleon

          See, I don’t think the show is describing it’s viewpoint, and I definitely don’t think it’s describing Beth – I think this is just Rick’s view of the world, and I totally buy that it’s what he’d think; notice that Beth comes to a very unRick conclusion the very next episode.

          • I haven’t seen the next episode, but I will say that in this specific episode, the show doesn’t do a lot to challenge Rick’s view (I agree it’s totally in-line with what he’d think).

          • unDead Napoleon

            Yeah, thinking on it, I realised I’m really just extending enough trust in the writers that we’re not meant to take Rick as a positive moral viewpoint – in fact, I’ve been surprised that the reaction from people in general has been “what lesson are we meant to take from this?” – so I can definitely see what you mean.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        unDead Napoleon have you seen the original Wicker Man? I would strongly, STRONGLY recommend it. It’s quite brilliant.

        • unDead Napoleon

          It’s on my todo list!

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            It’s this alluring mix of thriller, musical, and then slowly horror film.

    • ZoeZ

      Unusually for a weekend where I was out of town, I managed to fit something in!

      We Are Still Here. I was sold on this as a movie that started out as a quiet, melancholy haunted house story and became a blood-soaked frenzy, and that is indeed what it is, it’s just absent the charm I would have expected from that summary. It’s not bad, but it’s mostly low-energy, and much of the acting is slightly stilted.

      Gerald’s Game: Carla Gugino was a terrific choice to anchor this film. If you’re going to spend an hour and a half mostly watching a one-woman show, you want it to be someone with this much presence and charisma. This is a very solid adaptation of a novel that must have been hard to adapt–a lot of the action is internal–and Gugino is terrific. (Her dual performance as the polished, straightforward imaginary-Jessie and the increasingly desperate, terrified Jessie is great, and very fun.) There are plenty of cliches here, but also some smart complicating of them, and all in all, it’s a good way to spend an hour and forty minutes.

      • Miller

        Good call on Guigino’s double role, Imaginary Jessie’s entrance is great — it’s not real but it’s what someone with the conviction she has would do, and that’s the headspace Real Jessie needs to get in.

      • I think the best way to describe We Are Still Here is that it’s filled with its own sense of loathing, fear and sadness; it’s a movie where joy or hope have been stripped away by time.

    • A Scene at the Sea – a bittersweet film by Takeshi Kitano about a deaf kid who spontaneously decides to take up surfing after finding a broken board by the side of the road, with a beautiful score from Joe Hisaishi (frequent Miyazaki collaborator) and an enjoyably low-key sense of humour. I really enjoyed it right up until the end, where it seems like the director decided chilled out low-stakes drama wasn’t enough and went for a big tonal shift that really didn’t work for me at all – a real shame.

      It was my girlfriend’s birthday over the weekend so she picked some rewatches for the rest of it:
      Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – eh. I don’t get a huge amount out of these films, even this one with its unusually good cinematography and time travel.
      Hellboy – now that’s more like it! I haven’t seen this in a while, and remember liking the sequel more, but I really enjoyed revisiting this one. The audience-surrogate FBI guy wasn’t as bland as I remember him being and Ron Perlman’s Hellboy is just a pleasure to watch, especially when he’s rescuing kittens.
      Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – I’ve seen this three times now and it keeps on surprisingly me how much I like it. Why this version of the wizarding world works so much better for me than the Potter films, I’m not sure (other than “significantly less time devoted to fucking Quidditch”) but at this point I’ve even come to really quite like Eddie Redmayne’s performance. Fun to rewatch it the same weekend as Hellboy too as they have a surprising amount in common.

      TV:
      Rick & Morty, The ABCs of Beth (S3E9) – heh, I didn’t realise that was the episode title. This was a really good one, probably second only to the Atlantic / Citadel one for this season.
      Bojack Horseman, The Old Sugarman Place (S4E2) – yeah, that hit the spot. I think this one deserves another watch as I had it on while wrapping presents, but it definitely delivered on some of that sweet, sweet Bojack emotion.

      • ZoeZ

        “I have half a mind…”

        • Sent shivers down my spine, that did.

    • Babalugats

      The Bad Batch – Ana Lily Amirpour has one of the strongest eyes for composition in the business and a gift, rare among post-Tarantino filmmakers, to blend obvious influences and references into something wholly unique and completely effective on its own terms. And she’s not content to make naturalistic little dramas, or smug dramedies soaked in ironic condescension. She’s an exciting talent, and this film, although not entirely successful, continues that excitement.

      This one is a bit of a mixed bag. Though most of the scenes work well on their own, it lacks the flow of her previous feature. And when it drifts into explicit social commentary, its ideas come off shallow and half baked. I think the characters are meant to be a little dumb here, that the film is reaching for simple truths about forgiveness and acceptance of a flawed world, and moving past trauma, and contrasting that with the grandiose bullshit that the characters spout without actually believing. But it doesn’t quite get there. Amirpour is best at capturing small silent moments. A scene where shirtless Jason Momoa paints a portrait of his young daughter, before she climbs up onto him to admire the work and then takes the brush and begins painting herself, for example, captures everything we need to know about that relationship and that character. This is a filmmaker for whom words are the enemy.

      Amirpour has a light touch with her actors, and I thought the acting was top to bottom strong, if never much more than that. Suki Waterhouse is working in a stone faced Clint Eastwood mode, and does well enough. Although, I sometimes have trouble knowing if an actress is holding my attention because she has an interesting face, or because she has a pretty face. Momoa was better than expected as the big hearted, unrepentant cannibal, and Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves give dependably odd ball performances in supporting roles. Although none of these characters seem to have much going on beneath the surface, which is a problem in such a narratively lax film. Likewise, the world building, while an interesting and unique enough setting, doesn’t support much deeper examination. A tighter narrative would have greatly benefited this film in the same way it would have suffocated A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.

      This all reads fairly negative, but I did enjoy the movie. Despite the gore and the violence, I found it an easy and engaging watch, and I’ll likely return to it. Amirpour delivers a handful of compositions that burn themselves deep into the back of your brain, and her films posses a deep, at times embarrassing, sincerity that makes them hard to shake. And the ambiguity around both character and theme allows the audience space to find their own relationship with the work.

      mother! – My take is that the whole thing is really a masterpiece

      I’m going to block this all off, because that seems to be the approach people are taking with this movie, but I really think it’s unnecessary, and that how much you enjoy the film is strongly correlated with how quickly you realize what Aronofsky is doing here. So go ahead and click, eat of the fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Your eyes shall be opened, and you shall become as gods.

      I have a lot of thoughts on this movie, but they haven’t all congealed into sentences yet. This is going to be choppy, but bear with me. So I definitely think this is a clear Biblical allegory. I really like Bardem’s conception of God. He’s just really bemused with humanity, and has a deep compassion of their inherent weakness. But there’s also a real joy to his performance. And I’ve always liked any conception of God that sees creativity as the fundamental divine principle. And I liked the arrogance of humanity as well. This is a film that is willing to follow it’s theology to some dark places, and I really appreciate that. I also found this film much funnier than I expected. It certainly isn’t a comedy, but it’s a very playful movie. The awkwardness of the guests and the wild escalation are really funny once you’re on the its wavelength. I thought Ed Harris and especially Michelle Pfeiffer were incredible, the movie never quite recovers from her exit. I loved the design of the house, with its bleeding floors and tumorous outgrowths. I’ve worked on a few 100+ year old houses, and this movie captures exactly what it’s like. I’m not as clear on who Lawrence represented. Is she an earth goddess? Mother nature? The Holy Spirit? The Madonna? Lucifer? Whoever God was talking to when he said “let there be light”? Am I trying to force a too literal interpretation on this film? It’s interesting that if the movie splits God into the masculine/feminine, that it’s the male side that is nurturing, forgiving, compassionate, loved, the poet; and the female side that has the wrath of God, the judgment of God, the builder and the craftsman, the part that keeps the world running. I wouldn’t call this a feminist film, beyond its having a female protagonist, but that’s a choice that helps the characters feel more complete. I can’t think of a more masculine working actor than Bardem. And Aronofsky brings out more femininity from Lawrence than I’ve ever seen from her. She seems curvier and softer in this movie, her face rounder. She’s dressed in clothes that are soft, slack, and slightly transparent. Her hair is long and loose. This is the best movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.

      NFL – The Detroit Lions continue to look like a professional football team. Truly these are strange times.

      Also, as an aside. Is there an easy way to search disqus comments? I find myself skimming over or avoiding conversations on movies I haven’t seen yet, and then I can never remember which article had which conversation in it, once I’ve finally caught up.

      • unDead Napoleon

        I just google [site:the-solute.com “movie I’m looking for”].

      • lgauge

        There’s been a lot of mother! conversations happening in the last couple of weeks. I don’t envy you trying to find it all.

      • jroberts548

        Re mother!
        There’s an old idea in Christianity and also in stoicism and Neoplatonism that God creates through something. That is, you can distinguish between the creator and the word or the logos through which he creates. In Christianity, the creator and the word are part of the trinity, whereas in Neoplatonism the logos is an emanation from the creator.

        Although the word or logos is the son of the father, there’s traditionally something somewhat feminine about it. Logos and Wisdom, for instance, are the same, and some OT books like Sirach, and the Wisdom of Solomon talk about wisdom as a feminine aspect of God. It’s what the Father creates through and with, it’s the rational principle by which God orders the universe. It isn’t creation or Mother Nature, but it is reflected in nature.

        So what I’m saying is that even though there’s (briefly) a more obvious Jesus stand-in, J Law is also playing the Son of God, as well as Mother Nature. I think this is probably intentional on Aranofsky’s part, but I’d have to rewatch it or read a script to be sure. Some of the mother’s lines seem to recall both the temptation in the desert and the garden of gethsemane.

        The more I think about it, the more impressed I am with this movie.

        • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

          Y’all making me want to watch this movie, no lie.

          • clytie

            Same. I haven’t cared for most of Aronofsky’s previous work, so I had no interest in it until reading the comments on here.

      • Trump wins, Lions are good, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

      • Miller

        The Bills beat the Falcons to lead the AFC East! I listened on the radio so did not have the opportunity to see them nearly blow it, but the audio was tense enough. Score more touchdowns, guys! We will not get this lucky again.

      • The Ploughman

        I think the comments are only searchable for a certain number of months? I believe I read that somewhere. Though that seems at odds with the way the Internet, where nothing is ever lost, works.

    • lgauge

      I spent most/all of Saturday being really hung over, so I re-watched the first two Raimi Spider-Man movies: I honestly found them most interesting as historical documents of a bygone era in superhero movie making. As pieces of entertainment, they’re fine, but (speaking as an MCU skeptic) I was surprised to find myself disagreeing with the usual take that these two films (especially the second one) are better than than most if not all of the modern superhero movies. Sure, they have certain things about them that feel less pre-fab than certain aspects of the MCU, but this is also to the films’ detriment. There’s a lot of lazy or just bad screenwriting choices littered throughout that I feel like would have been ironed out in the more “professional” and precise MCU machine. And stylistically (that is, both aesthetically and the overall tone), despite a few personal touches by Raimi, while being very different from the MCU, the legacy of older superhero films like the original Superman and Burton’s Batman films are clearly visible. Though for this precise reason I find these films so fascinating.

      I hadn’t realized how much it’s possible to speak of two distinct eras of superhero filmmaking, pre and post Iron Man (Batman Begins belongs in the former, the next two Dark Knight films are outliers for the most part and the X-Men films are somewhat in between, though moving ever closer to the latter category I think). And I don’t just mean in terms of the usual conversations we have about the public attitude towards the films and the changed studio mentality towards making way more of them and thinking in terms of franchises and cinematic universes. There’s something very particular about the way the films were made too (that go way beyond the complaints about an MCU “house style”. The positive aspects of the first period is that the films are less choked by having to operate on large scales (the world won’t end just because The Green Goblin defeats Spider-Man), there’s more focus on smaller scale character moments (everyday life so to speak) and these are allowed to be more important for the narrative, there’s an overall more optimistic tone and the movies are able to be a bit silly without being self-consciously silly. On the other hand, there’s a lack of precision and cohesion in the storytelling that, while serving to build character to a certain extent, keep on repeating too many of the same beats. There are also a few too many examples of sloppy detail work and downright silly resolutions (ah yes, let’s stop the out of control fusion reaction, which sucks in metal and uses that as fuel, by throwing it into water, brilliant). Obviously you can’t delineate so precisely, I’m sure if you want you can find many counterexamples, but I was a bit surprised to see how much seems to have changed in terms of what these films are ultimately about and how they are about these things. Whatever else can be said about director vs producer, auterism and house styles, there’s another conversation to be had.

      Speaking more to the films themselves out of context, there are both good and bad things. I appreciate the amount of character and agency they yield to MJ (who could so easily just have been generic love interest who must be saved), even if they too put her in very damsel-y distresses a bit too often. I also appreciate Raimi’s horror film moves, but the amount of “women screaming in terror” is way too much for a film that isn’t a horror B-movie. Overall, there are a lot of good moments (especially in number 2), but there’s also a lot in between that doesn’t hold up nearly as well.

      City of Pirates (Raul Ruiz): Brilliant! I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.
      – Me watching this.

      Watching a film like this often feels like rolling a dice that’s been weighted in a way that’s impossible to determine before it’s too late. Many films are almost complete enigmas, but one’s response to them, that is whether one gets swept up in the mystery and just enjoy the ride or observe from a slight distance not quite willing to give up the idea that there’s some sense to be made, can sometimes seem arbitrary. I did slide ever so slowly and gradually towards the former from the latter once it became clear that no ordinary coherence was ever going to manifest, no allegory was suddenly going to click into place and once I allowed myself to be simply seized by the stunning imagery. Even ignoring all else, stunning imagery is something this film has in spades; with its angled close ups, unexpected deep focus, split diopters, mesmerizing colors and inventive use of double exposure. This also kept me from ever feeling all that much frustration at the film’s mysteries. Or, if there was frustration, it was a frustration born from an inability to be beguiled from start to finish (rather than finding anything particularly wrong with the film).

      Ruiz, with whom this is my first encounter, has himself indicated that he wants to make films that are complex enough to almost demand second viewings, which is I suppose a comfort. Certainly the increased enthusiasm I began to feel as the film approached its final parts would indicate that a second time through might just do the trick. In any case, the mystery is certainly part of the allure, even if it’s not always so easy to process.

      The Mouth Agape (Maurice Pialat): The unbearable slowness of dying. More than anything else so far in my exploration of Pialat’s films, he strikes me as being very interested in showing how people sometimes (or even often) don’t respond very nobly to the kind of emotional challenges one faces in life. Or that, for the men in his films, whatever amounts of genuine empathy and good nature people may have, is buried under so many layers of misguided masculinity and faux carefreeness that it can only be let out once there’s nothing left to keep it back.

      The overall plot of this film, a family member dying, is such a classic example of the kind of story where in most movies, people suddenly find themselves slowly but surely rising to face the challenge and start to change and grow as human beings. By being in a sense forced to present themselves as good and to do good in the service of others, they find that goodness within themselves. Pialat has no interests in such narratives. His is a more cynical view, though not just for cynicism’s sake (even if I’m sure many would think so). His characters don’t really react. Dying is just a part of life, so why should anything change? They do their duty, but their life goes on. At least superficially. Part of that is a (at least these days) familiar sense that people have bad sides that don’t go away just because they happen to do a few good deeds. Though here it’s less a need to redeem an anti-hero or to make some point about flawed human beings. This film is more interested in how these flaws actually shape people’s behavior in situations where their flaws are less relevant. The philandering son (and the ways both direct and not that he treats his wife) is no less a caring and dutiful son, but his caring also makes him no less a philandering asshole. Same thing with the father.

      Presenting such narratives and characterizations obviously requires a more sober and less overtly stylized presentation and Pialat achieves this by eschewing both in-your-face realism, psychodrama and rigid compositions alike. There’s no neo-realism-like tragedy, no New Wave handheld dynamism, no Rohmerian precision nor Bergmanian emotional proximity. Or, to take something more modern, it’s very easy to think of the standard issue handheld realist style as somehow a “lack” of style, but its documentary-like approach is of course really a very distinct stylistic choice with its own implications. Standing apart from all these, Pialat mostly shoots with a fairly static and distant camera, making for a style that encourages observation without calling attention to the fact that we are really looking. This tends to favor narrative immersion over psychological immersion, keeping the characters at a distance. Also, by keeping the overt filmmaking to a minimum, it becomes a lot easier to put very strong emphasis on the few shots/scenes where such tools are in fact used. Again, though very distinct from handheld realism, this is another way in which a “lack” of style is of course very much its own style.

      All in all, Pialat’s approach to both narrative and style allows the audience to both judge the characters rightly for bad behavior while allowing the conclusion that such judgement does not hinder sympathy either. The problem with a lot of films where we’re supposed to feel sympathy for bad people is that they present a lot of big dramatic moments where a saturation of pathos and stylistic emphasis is supposed to convince us that the characters are worthy of our sympathy. Pialat lets the story speak for itself and by letting us keep some distance allows a more neutral assessment of the situation. By not asking for empathy, it comes more naturally and feels more earned. We’re all just people and life is harsh, for the most part neither immune from judgement nor entirely undeserving of sympathy.

      • lgauge

        Reading up a bit on Ruiz, I found these two great paragraphs that at least somewhat relates to our drama-literature discussion. Ruiz is very much a literature guy (for a lot of people to a fault I’m sure) and that’s something he apparently lays out in his writings on cinema called Poetics of Cinema, which I find myself interested in reading now.

        One of the most insistent engagements of Poetics of Cinema is a polemical critique of what Ruiz refers to as Central Conflict Theory. This theory, which is really no theory at all but rather a set of general practical rules, was first made apparent to Ruiz, through American scriptwriting manuals (Ruiz, 11) and corresponds to the system of continuity editing developed in Hollywood from the 1920s. Obscure script-writing manuals may seem a perverse object of critique, in comparison to theories of Classical Hollywood Cinema such as that of David Bordwell et al, but in fact it is a Foucauldian move that selects the pragmatic, even brutal, statements of scriptwriting manuals as being more essential to a genealogy of contemporary cinema than more elaborate film theoretical formulations. Film theory may describe the general structures of Central Conflict Theory, but it is in scriptwriting manuals that they are enacted in a no less disciplinary way than the regimens of discipline analysed by Foucault in Discipline and Punish.

        In its essence, Central Conflict Theory refers to a type of dramatic construction, first developed by naturalist playwrights such as Ibsen, and later imposed as the model for Hollywood and international cinema. The crucial claim of this theory is, as Ruiz puts it, that “someone wants something and someone else doesn’t want them to have it. From this point on […] all the elements of the story are arranged around this central conflict” (Ruiz, 11). What is immediately problematic about this method is that it is exclusive: whatever doesn’t serve to feed the central conflict should, in a good film be eliminated. For Ruiz, this is not just an aesthetic question but a directly political one: in fact he has gone so far as to suggest that the recent American invasion of Iraq is an expression of the way this logic has come to dominate not only cinema but contemporary politics itself. But to return to cinema, what exactly is excluded by an adherence to this doctrine, which is as much an economic one as an aesthetic one as it is used as a primary criterion for determining which films get funded? According to Ruiz it is all the “boring” moments, that is, those moments that contribute nothing to a central conflict and which are nevertheless the most interesting: “central conflict forces us to abandon all those events which require only indifference or detached curiosity, like a landscape, a distant storm, or dinner with friends” (Ruiz, 11).

        I sympathize with this quite a bit, especially as a reaction against the insistence on “efficient” and “lean” storytelling that’s made with regard to so many movies. Though I will admit that that practice is more valid for straightforward genre films than they are for the kind of art house material that Ruiz seems interested in making. However, regardless how we might feel about the philosophy, I think the identification of phenomena and the discussion of them is interesting here.

        • Miller

          Breaking Away has a main story/conflict — the lead wants to be a champion cyclist and ride with his Italian idols — and other ones underneath, particularly the clash between the lead and his townie friends and the university crowd they envy/dislike. The movie knits all of this together in an unobtrusive but satisfying way and part of that is by using moments that may fit thematically but have no bearing on the main story — in particular, there are several scenes with a friend of the lead’s as he hangs out with his girlfriend, prepares to marry her, and marries her at the local courthouse. These are brief and inconsequential to the plot, they just show what this guy is doing (and while a wedding is probably not considered “boring,” this is a simple civil ceremony that isn’t even shown, it is very matter-of-fact), but they’re a part of a whole that would be lessened without their inclusion even though it would work fine as a basic story. This is where I really got a Linklater vibe from the movie, because I think it takes a lot of discipline to be this relaxed.

      • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

        I totally agree with your delineation of pre- and post-Iron Man, and I’ve wondered how much of Spider-Man got a pass because back then, those were the acceptable breaches in reality for a comic-book movie. The reactor being shut off by dumping it in a (surprisingly deep!) river is a great example: it’s a fine visual shorthand for a fire being extinguished, but they also told us it’s a fusion power plant, and therefore the freaking sun. You can’t put the sun out by pouring water on it, of course; xkcd said so. But that was “comic book physics” for the moviegoing public back then, whereas now the Olde Norse Gods are interdimensional aliens who still travel via the Rainbow Bridge to this very day.

        Which reminds me: I have it in my head that you’re in Norway, is that right? Was it annoying to have Marvel dipping from that well? When Thor was announced, I told my friends that real life Viking gods showing up would probably cause some consternation in largely-Lutheran Norway, but I always wondered how that went over. Talk about your undiscussed cultural appropriations…

        • lgauge

          You are correct about my nationality. In fact, I’ve made the joke that Thor is cultural appropriation several times. For my own sake, I already knew about the comic, so making a movie didn’t change much. As for the culture at large, I don’t recall anyone giving a shit. Norse mythology is the sort of thing we learn about in elementary school and is treated as a bunch of fun stories for the most part. In fact, there’s an unfortunate association these days with adults who are into Norse mythology and neo-nazis. So there’s really very little emotional connection to it and hence little reason to get upset about Marvel picking and choosing the details and making it into a fun blockbuster. There may have been a few raised eyebrows about black Heimdall, but it didn’t make much impact in the culture at large.

          As for the Lutheran bit, religion generally takes much less space here. Apart from a few outspoken fundamentalists, being Christian in Norway (which was the official religion until just a few years ago, no lie) is a fairly invisible characteristic and not something you pontificate too much about in the larger discourse. I think most of us here (religious and not alike) are perpetually baffled by how much space religion takes in the US, especially considering your official insistence on “separation of church and state”.

          • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

            Thank you for the thoughtful reply! I’ve been meaning to ask you about that for awhile now; I apologize if I missed your already having commented on it.

            Given that at least one large subset of the European colonizers that landed here did so to escape “religious persecution” in their own narrative, the concept of “separation of church and state” has been a freighted one from the very start over here. It meshes very strangely with our history of malevolent dealings with the natives, actually: to pick one example, emigrants from the Netherlands would write about finding whole farmsteads set up and waiting for them, fields already cleared, and would praise God for His Kind Benevolence–without realizing that the farm had been depopulated by smallpox, and that the natives they were displacing were suffering horribly. (Things would not improve from there, of course.)

          • hellgauge

            No worries. I’ve only mentioned that like 2 or 3 times as one-line tongue-in-cheek jokes and I’m not even sure to what extent I’ve said it here and to what extent I’ve said it elsewhere.

      • Miller

        “but I was a bit surprised to see how much seems to have changed in terms of what these films are ultimately about and how they are about these things.”

        My sense is that post-Iron Man movies, particularly the Captain America ones, are interested in “real” things if not actually about them, and that is not my preferred mode for comic book movies.

      • You’re dead-on about the two eras of superhero movies, and I think another thing that separates not just those but blockbusters in general is that somewhere in the late ’00s – Avatar and 3D might be the dividing line – we got the sense that visual effects had progressed to the point where they could more or less portray anything, and studios and filmmakers themselves, with rare exceptions, started taking uber-expensive spectacle for granted. Consequently a lot of big VFX set-pieces from the mid-2000s and earlier might have aged badly but something like the train scene in Spider-Man 2, even if rough around the edges, still carries the sense of wonder and thrill that, if anything, is only amplified today, because it’s all the more clear how special it is in a movie that spends quite a lot of time being small and character-driven, and how hard everyone involved worked for it.

        I think this applies to the rest of the movie as well. I last saw Raimi’s first two Spidey films in 2012, and already at that point the original came across as fairly silly, but I still adored the sequel. I love how it doesn’t just accept being comic-booky and emotionally outsized, but fully embraces it, with no self-deprecation or fear about coming across as uncool. These aren’t inherently good qualities, I’d say they’re part of what sank Spider-Man 3, but they’re exactly right here. I’ve enjoyed a fair number of Marvel’s joints from the past decade but in all honesty I might trade the entire MCU just for Kirsten Dunst’s delivery of “Go get ’em, tiger”.

    • jroberts548

      Just tv this weekend
      30 rock.. Tried to rewatch as much as I could before it went off Netflix. The second live episode contains my favorite Jon Hamm moment. Yes, I do rank “banjo!” over “carousel,” and “I’m a baby waaa.”

      SNl “woke Jeans” and “papyrus” were good, as was Gosling’s monologue.

      • clytie

        They added 30 Rock to Hulu.

        • jroberts548

          Netflix is trying really hard to sell me on Hulu and filmstruck.

          • clytie

            Hulu seems to have the best selection when it comes to TV right now. When I first started paying for Hulu, it was specifically to watch General Hospital, and they really didn’t have much I was interested it. Now there’s tons of stuff.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        WHAT, 30 ROCK’S GOING OFF NETFLIX, FUCK YOUUUUUU (not…you jroberts548, fuck Netflix).

        Oh and yeah I think “Banjo” is one of the funniest things that has ever aired on television.

    • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – Totally lived up to the hype. Perhaps the best musical in years, and that really helped it. It would’ve been too easy to make them a talentless band, but the songs were catchy & danceable. Plus it didn’t just rely on the stupidity of its characters – there was a good amount of wordplay, esp between Connor and his manager. I loved all the celebrities gushing about the Connor & the Style Boyz, and the chef stole every scene he was in.

      Was the DJ helmet’s sound the same as the tripods in Spielbergs’ War of the Worlds?

      • The Ploughman

        “I realized I was getting older when athletes started getting younger than me

        Oh ho-ho, just you wait. Wait until you realize the players grew up idolizong the players that are your age. I’m only half joking when I propose that part of the popularity of football is because masks and muscles hide the fact that most of the players are in their mid-20s.

    • Will & Grace, which sent me into an existential crisis. More on that later today.

      A couple more horror movies for morning movies. Speaking of which, can I have one of the writers take over the third week of October’s morning stuff? That’s like 16, 18, 19, and 20. (Though, I think one of those days I’ll be doing Carnosaur?).

      I also went to a celebrity impersonator drag show and…god, I’m so not that type of gay. I want my drag to be weird and biting and have commentary. I want a doll that turns into pill popping Joker before stabbing herself. I want a giant finger trap dress that stretches and stretches and gets tighter and tighter but never comes off. I want nuns and airline stewardesses hosting Airplane ‘75. I want large girls in curly blonde wigs who drink like three 40ozers while lip syncing Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation. I do not want people precisely imitating Cher or Britney Spears or Katy Perry (in no small part because I don’t like their songs much in the first place). The show made me want to do something unwholesome, so I watched Will & Grace and a queer horror movie after.

      • I’ll take the 16th.

        Also, So Not That Type of Gay will be your autobiography title. Trademark it now.

      • I also watched the Las Vegas news unfold in real time on ABC which shirked their usual late night broadcasting for hours of Vegas coverage. Good god damn. The weirdest parts were when the news would bring on an expert who would be like “maybe it’s ISIS?” even after learning the shooter was a local resident. Then they posited on the guns based on the sounds from YouTube uploads. They played the same footage on repeat for hours. It’s weird watching horror shows unfold on television because of the dearth of information and a refusal of television to cut away from covering it. The coverage was kind of mindnumbing. You start to notice things like how many times they show one of like 4 videos and watching the screens go out because something was turned off or shot. The death count started at 2 with 26 injured and shot up from there amidst the chaos. It was really really weird how many conclusions were jumped and then had to be retracted.

        • That’s one of my most distinct memories of 9/11, and you see it in any “breaking news” story–the strange blend of irresponsible speculation and repetition, repetition, repetition. News reporting is all about presenting a narrative and that’s at its most unhinged when there are only a few data points to work with. Another thing you see in all the coverage (it’s happening right now) is the moment a new piece of information appears, everyone repeats it–it just zings around the mediaverse.

          • It was really weird when the police released the name of the shooter’s female roommate but not the dead guy, and the roommate was described as an Asian woman named Marilou and they still were pushing the terrorist angle. They just needed to fill the time and the hunky correspondent could only say so much when his main interview subject, a kind of handsome beardy shirtless guy who had somebody die in his arms, was getting care (and a sweatshirt) at the ambulance. There’s a point where it would be more responsible to cut to regular programming with periodic updates rather than just keep rolling with a drone of repetitious wrong information.

          • Miller

            “News reporting is all about presenting a narrative and that’s at its most unhinged when there are only a few data points to work with.”

            TV also has the problem of not ending, print — whether online or on paper — has a publishing point where the narrative is closed off. It can then be updated, but the need to shape and end is there in a way TV does not have.

          • And when it gets into “continuous coverage,” it becomes, like Julius said, almost avant-garde–a static, ambient loop of information, repeating endlessly with slight variations.

          • Miller

            “This … is CNN”
            “This is … CNN”
            “This IS CNN”
            “This is C…NN”
            “God DAMMIT, get this Phillip Glass guy outta here and bring in James Earl Jones like I said in the first place!”

          • The Ploughman

            It was crazy the amount of news that got consumed that day and the ones that followed. And all the rumors that found their way around to watchers with no social media to help.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Ebert back in the ’90s made a pretty good argument that the way news cycles played shootings was actively glorifying them – giving them logos, endless coverage, and showcasing the shooter.

      • Cennywise The Ploughn

        I can contribute one of the open mornings. I’ll say the 18th unless I’m told otherwise.

    • Finished Out 1–I had drawn comparisons to David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest while I was watching this, but I was not expecting its ending to be so similar to IJ, at least on a superficial level. I enjoyed this overall, though I’m not exactly sure it ever really justifies some of its more challenging sections.

      Also finished BoJack Horseman, Season 4–Not nearly as crushing as I though it would be, thank goodness. In fact, I appreciate the timid optimism of the ending, which feels like an honestly arrived at conclusion. The season is messy and not entirely structurally sound, lacking a lot of the goofy through-lines that previous seasons have had to tie everything together, but I’ve appreciated how that shagginess has allowed the story to make more time for its secondary characters–Princess Carolyn in particular has a very strong storyline that I found immensely moving.

      Also watched The Invasion–It’s not terrible, but “let’s remake Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but without much political subtext” is a bad idea, regardless of execution.

      • hellgauge

        What would have justified those more challenging sections for you (I’m assuming you’re referring to the rehearsals/improv session)? To me they justified themselves just by being enjoyable in their own right and by acting as an important anchor for both delineating the two groups and for underlining some of the themes. To me postmodernism, in the sense of challenging modernist Truths and exploring the subjective, is an important aspect of the film as a whole and the way the groups decided to stage the plays, especially the more experimental group, really fed into this for me.

        • I didn’t enjoy them, ha. I thought they were tedious when taken to the length they were (like, 30 straight minutes?? Come on!). I liked it when the actors would comment on their performances, but the movie never really made me feel like the extreme lengths of time we would watch the performances was worthwhile. I think 4-5 minute scenes could have accomplished the same effect–well, not the exact same effect; I wouldn’t have been bored.

          • hellgauge

            I know you didn’t like them, but that is (at least kind of) different from questioning their place within the film itself. I was just wondering if you felt like these scenes would have been more justified if there had been other parts of the film that were more in conversation with them, but if it’s an objection mainly to the scenes themselves (understandable, even if I disagree) then I just misread your intent.

          • Well, it’s both. I didn’t enjoy them for one, but secondly, I don’t know that the movie has a need for them to last as long as they do. It felt like an indulgence. I think their presence in the movie is absolutely necessary, just not in the length that they were allowed.

          • To clarify a little bit: I think the movie is a tremendous achievement. It’s powerful, and the ending is crushing (I thought we’d get a happy ending :(…). I just think those scenes show the movie at its slackest and most indulgent. I understand the philosophical role of the scenes, but I feel that they aren’t all that interesting once you understand what’s going on.

    • I’m Not There. – I have yet to do a truly deep dive into Dylan’s work and history beyond his first several albums, so I approached this with some apprehension that was both warranted and not. The first hour and change is intoxicating, playing with actors, words, references, film stocks, colors, and forms of presentation (I would watch an entire faux-documentary of Julianne Moore as Joan Baez in a heartbeat, even if she was just a talking head sitting in a chair) in a way that brings the film’s central idea to life and overrode any potential sense of distance on my part. My giddiness wore off, however, around the part starring Richard Gere, due almost certainly to my complete unfamiliarity with Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and whatever Dylan was doing in the ’70s and beyond in general, and also because Gere is a fine actor but nowhere near as commanding as Heath Ledger (sniff) or Cate Blanchett or even Ben Whishaw in his comparatively tiny role. In addition, some of the later moments here start to bring out the detached-self-impressed-exercise mode in Haynes that derailed Velvet Goldmine for me and that he’d managed to avoid beforehand in this one. Still very well-done on the whole, and especially invaluable for its approach to the biopic. Look forward to revisiting.

      Manifesto – good fun, though I agree with my friend who saw it with me and disliked it that it’s Blanchett who really carries it, moreso than the actual ideas on display. The juxtaposition of content and context is sometimes pointed (what sounded like Manifesto of Futurism being laid on top of the scene of a stock exchange with people staring into monitors) but other times felt more opaque; still, it never becomes dull or too full of itself because you can always expect a new Blanchett (or two) just a few minutes later. My favorite: the TV anchor and the reporter she talks to, both casually addressing each other as “Cate”.

      The Twilight Zone, season 1, episodes 19-22:

      “The Purple Testament”, in which a soldier stationed in Philippines in 1945 finds that he can see who among his comrades is going to die soon. What this leads to isn’t a twisty plot or a race against time to do anything; the main character’s sudden ability comes across more like a final blow to the psyche of a man who has already seen too much. Not a conventionally thrilling story, but a quietly fatalistic and haunting one, that retroactively gains more weight when you read up on Rod Serling’s own serving history. An uncomfortably young Warren Oates gets a small part near the end.

      “Elegy”, in which three astronauts in 2185 land on an asteroid that looks a lot like Earth circa mid-20th century, except all the people on it stand or sit perfectly still and don’t respond to anything. A very technically complex episode in terms of crowd scenes, and the resolution is fairly chilling, but the more you think about the premise and backstory, the more questions arise, and there’s random whimsical music that works totally against the atmosphere.

      “Mirror Image”, which might be my absolute favorite I’ve seen so far. A young woman waiting for a bus on a dark rainy November night is told by other people in the bus station that she’s already said and done things she claims to be saying and doing for the first time now, then starts catching glimpses of her own double (who no one else sees) in places where she was just moments ago. Directed by John Brahm and starring the great Vera Miles just a few months before Psycho, this is deliciously eerie stuff, expertly utilizing its single half-empty setting, light and shadows, mirrors, sounds of rain and thunder, and the performances of both Miles and surrounding character actors.

      Serling’s teaser speech for the episode, in which he talks about what drove him to write it, is surprising on multiple levels: “Next week, I try settle an argument to the effect that I’m not at my best when writing scripts for women”. Indeed The Twilight Zone hasn’t had the best track record with women up to this point, but Serling, true to his word here, gives Miles ample room to credibly go from calm and confident to frightened, paranoid and proposing theories about alternate realities encroaching on our own in just 20 minutes, and his script doesn’t need to hammer home the notion that men she interacts with are quick to doubt her sanity precisely because she’s a woman. This is also the episode that has the most in common with David Lynch’s future work, between the technical precision, Miles being a quintessential “woman in trouble”, the lack of an explanation for the mystery (the closing narration essentially tells you to fuck off if you want one), and a scene where a man in a suit fruitlessly chases his own creepily smiling doppelganger. It’s getting easier and easier for me to picture Lynch watching the shit out of all this as a teenager.

      “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”. Oh, you want a McCarthyism allegory? We’ll do a McCarthyism allegory to end all McCarthyism allegories. Withering stuff, letting absolutely no one off the hook and only benefitting from its heavy-handedness which is complimented by its sheer force of conviction. It takes talent to effectively drop the mic just once; this is a piece of work that, throughout its second half, manages to drop the mic, pick it up, drop it again even more powerfully, and then repeat that process about 10 more times.

      • The source text for the Richard Gere section is Greil Marcus’ The Old, Weird America (alternate, better title: Invisible Republic), where Marcus imagines a town made up of characters from The Basement Tapes. That’s where Gere’s Billy is. The section makes more sense if you’ve read it, but it’s not less beautiful.

      • Son of Griff

        Stylistically, the Gere segment is based on THE HOLY MOUNTAIN more than the Peckinpah film. I’m with you on the critiques, although for me it was the Blanchett segments that went on a bit long.

      • John Bruni

        I’ve screened “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” for grad students in my systems theory class. Generated a rather interesting discussion afterwards.

      • Any movie with David Cross as Allen Ginsberg is worth watching.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        The last one is just utterly bone-chilling, especially the devolution into chaos and terror.

    • clytie

      Friday:
      Midnight Meat Train because it was disappearing from Amazon Prime and I think that Bradley Cooper is cute. It was well-done, but predictable and not my kinda movie in general.

      Saturday:
      Oxygen is having a special series on the disappearance of Maura Murray, which is one of the cases I obsessive over, so I watched the part they aired. For those unfamiliar with her case:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearance_of_Maura_Murray

      Sunday:
      I watched How It Really Happened with Hill Harperabout the Menendez Brothers, because as I’ve mentioned, I have Menendi fever. It was really good.

      I caught up on my soaps as I’ve been behind. General Hospital had two same sex couples, one I loved and one I hated. They suddenly disappeared from the canvas with rumors that ABC told them that they show was using the gay characters “too much.” They brought back one back. The one I hate.

    • Miller

      Breaking Away — Mrs. Miller brought this for a family get-together and it was pretty much perfect, just what everyone needed. Low-key and often very funny but not lazy, I bet Richard Linklater watched this movie a lot, it anticipates his dude dynamics and interest in athleticism. But it also has a great father-son dynamic, Paul Dooley is just outstanding here as the dad, and more prominent if not overbearing class issues, so John Hughes may have been paying attention as well. Peter Yates is a superb director of stuff happening, things that are inherently interesting like a stone carving factory or the climactic bicycle race are filmed to highlight their action and physical presence without showing off. Somehow a movie this minor in scale got nominated for Best Picture and it damn well should have, this is a classic. Also — holy Jesus is young Dennis Quaid good-looking.

      Gerald’s Game — this might be a bit oversold but still good horror. Flanagan uses space and light well to frame his lead as her situation gets worse and worse, and Guigino doesn’t hold back (and Bruce Greenwood, looking a bit like Quaid in breaking away gone just a bit to seed — lots of abs this weekend — is also excellent). Some decent jump scares and an excellent gore scene, but there’s also a fair amount of pat psychology from King and a bad ending even for him. The creepiest moment is kept low-key, though — an abusive father (Henry Thomas, aka Elliot from E.T.!) manipulates his child into protecting him and it’s the kind of thing King knows is worse than the gore.

      • clytie

        Gerald’s Game is one of the books I read when I was in jail. I’ve never been a King fan, but I liked it a lot and didn’t know that they made a movie of it.

        • Miller

          It is one of the Kings I have never gotten around to, but it was amusing how much I could tell when his dialogue was seeping into the movie, it is very faithful in that way. It’s on Netflix.

      • pico79

        When people ask what my favorite sports movie is, I always say Breaking Away: it’s funny people don’t think of it as a sports movie, despite the fact that the climax focuses on it, which just goes to show how rich and multifaceted the movie is. It’s also so goddamned quotable – “Refund!” – and very much deserved its screenwriting Oscar.

        Also a thing that’s still surprising to say: Daniel Stern is the melancholy heart of the movie. He’s the lovable but wounded dog that tries to deflect everything with sad jokes, and he has many of the movie’s best lines (“How are you fellas doing?” “We’re a little disturbed by developments in the Middle East, but otherwise…”) Even at the race he’s the only one there with no one to congratulate him on the victory, and it cuts deeply.

        Ugh, I love this movie so much.

        • Miller

          Excellent point about Stern (and how great is the movie with bodies? Without any dialogue the distinctions between Christopher’s whippet agility, Quaid’s BMOC teen god, Haley’s small scrapper and Stern’s gawky loser are apparent). And while he’s clever he’s genuinely not book smart and a born fuckup, Christopher even jokes about this with his dad and it packs a sting — Stand By Me talks about how some people drown and Stern is at the bottom of the pond with Teddy and Vern.

          • pico79

            Also an underrated strength: the leads are four different “types” but it totally makes sense why they’d be hanging out together, and it’s never more apparent than when they’re fighting with one another.

    • glorbes

      Over the weekend, I was at a cottage with the family, which means I watched Jaws and Creature from the Black Lagoon, as well as bits and pieces of War of the Gargantuas and It Came From Beneath the Sea (when we weren’t fishing or hanging out in the early autumn sun. I also chopped wood, which made me feel rugged and manly).

      Last night, we resumed the re-watch of Cheers, one of which was an episode about Sam’s former ball-player buddy coming out of the closet in a tell all book that I was afraid was going to be a cringe-inducing disaster but ended up being…not all that bad at all. There were some all-time classic lines (Norm stands up, scans the room…”Everyone here is too ugly to be gay”), and a lot of humour was mined from the idiot regulars being in a state of gay panic, but being wrong about everything they assumed. For 1982, this seemed…shockingly modern and actually more comfortable with showing the characters being imperfect and uninformed.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Another surprisingly nuanced sitcom episode about gay stereotypes was All In The Family’s one about Archie not getting that one of his friends is gay (because of course he doesn’t act “fruity”) and the show directly mocking straight guys being fine with gay men as long as they’re not effeminate or “too gay”.

    • Defense Against The Dark Arts

      Wolves at the Door. Despicable, tasteless, abhorrent . I could go on with the negative descriptors but I will just say i didn’t know this was a dramatization of the Tate/Manson murders going in and when it dawned on me that it was I almost shut it off. Turning a real life incident, including using the real life victims first names, into a cheap, home invasion thriller was disgusting. Usually I don’t regret watching a movie but I did with this one.

    • Spooky Narrator Man

      I picked the spookiest Greta Gerwig avatar I possibly could, gimme some slack.

      Battle of the Sexes: Pretty good entertainment, no thanks to a pretty clumsy script that likes to have the characters bluntly, inelegantly say whatever point Simon Beaufoy is trying to make at any given moment (like Bobby Riggs’ wife telling him “I, a woman” has bankrolled his career; gee, couldn’t figure out what she meant without her clarifying her gender). That it works is due to the efforts of Dayton/Faris, La La Land DoP Linus Sandgren (who shoots this in an interesting mixture of roving 70s long takes and locked-down shots of people completely isolated in vast hotel rooms or tennis courts), and its insane cast. It obviously includes Emma Stone (who’s really fucking good in this) and Steve Carell at the top, then it goes to Sarah Silverman, Andrea Riseborough, and Bill Pullman, then the likes of Natalie Morales, Mickey Sumner, and Bridey Elliott, and eventually getting to goddamn Tom Kenny as Pullman’s associate. I guess Dayton/Faris must’ve still had his number from the “Tonight Tonight” video.

      Saturday Night Live: A fairly solid episode with two massive clunkers and one all-timer (I need a full movie of Gosling tormented by Avatar‘s Papyrus-adjacent font). That’s almost the most you can ask for from this show at this point.

      Blank Check with Griffin and David: Blue Steel: A much more focused discussion than the last few episodes, with some pretty thorough analysis of the film’s looks at gun fetishism and toxic masculinity. And there are still some delightful tangents (I hope they tell stories about Richard Jenkins every week), and the introduction of ad breaks, which I’m glad are as surreally unfocused and protracted as anything else Griffin does on the show.

    • Man with a robot arm

      Lancelot du Lac – Who knew Robert Bresson, Bresson, loved the lopping off of heads and a good arterial spray. I think the Pythons may have been fans.

    • pico79

      Daughters of the Dust, which is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever watched (there are a dozen tableaux I wanted to pause, download, and save as desktops), if dramatically somewhat confounding (it plays more like a stage piece, and it’d be trivially easy to adapt as theater monologues). The acting is uneven, but I was most drawn in by Charles Burnett regular Kaycee Moore, who also played the protag’s wife in Killer of Sheep. And like all great films, it sent me on a flurry of research to learn more. The only part that didn’t work for me at all is the very dated music – the electric pianos, bass riffs, and studio effects are like the sonic equivalent of a Patrick Nagel poster.

      Re-watch of Hail, Caesar! We don’t deserve the Coens. They are too good for us.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      NFL Football. Because I am a crazy person (after all, “fan,” in the sports lexicon, comes from “fanatic”), I decided, after getting home from the bar around 3:30, that I would plan to watch the Saints in London, which started at 8:30. I’m glad I did, because a defense that has been best described over the last 4-5 years as “cartoonish” pitched a shutout against a Miami team that apparently missed Ryan Tannehill a lot more than they knew. Also I watched the full slate of games, though I fell asleep through the third quarter of the early-afternoon ones.

      Vice Principals, “The King.” See my writeup here; I cranked out 1,000 words in about an hour, which makes me wonder why I don’t have a TV reviewing job already.

      Bob’s Burgers, season 8 premiere, “Brunchsquatch.” Fun episode with a nice performance from John Early as the fabulous diva (which he’s played a lot lately, between this, WHAS: 10 Years Later, and Search Party) of the brunch-blogging scene, Dame Judi Brunch. This episode came with a gimmick of using a lot of fan-art designs in its production (over 60!) which was pretty cool but a little distracting because they changed designs so often.

      Rick and Morty, season 3 finale, “The Rickchurian Mortydate.” Wish I had more to say about this right now but I think I covered most of it in the Avocado discussion, and also some things Drunk Undead Napoleon Of Death said are true too. I particularly enjoyed that Morty, while essentially having the same acceptance of the meaninglessness of infinity as Rick does, completely rejects Rick’s reaction to it– run away to somewhere you can be in charge and do whatever you want– to do what Rick told Beth last episode, enjoy this life knowing it’s the choice you made.

      I also see Jerry’s value now. He’s a limiting factor, someone who grounds Beth in the mundane to keep her from going off the deep end in Ricklike fashion.

      I did not get to the premieres of Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Last Man on Earth, or Ghosted yet, but rest assured I will.

  • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

    I like to think picture #3 in this article is like a commercial for Lifetime After Dark, where lunatics take over the station between 2am and 4am and all bets are off. I’m thinking something like, “I love him, but I can’t forgive him for trying to set me on fire. Ever since he got his face shrunk, he just sneers at my back without any clothes on. I’ll have my justice, though!”

    • That was the one I almost used as the cover because his weird pursed lip face utterly cracked me up when I saw it and the frame is abnormally well constructed for this movie. Not to mention, Reid was more handsome and less purse lipped in the rest of the movie, making it ultra weird. I kind of love it.

      I’m happy I found five good non-R-or-X-rated images to show.

      • Dead Jerk Jerk Dead

        It’s the one that jumped out at me for sure. His expression is memorably strange in a way that makes the nudity more comical than anything, and while it’s framed like he’s maybe a threat to the visibly-bruised woman in the foreground, he looks so nuh-uh! boyish – and she, so you’re gonna get it now mister! matronly-disapproving – that it’s hard to read any real danger or malice in it. It’s gloriously goofy.

        • Oh no, he’s on her side and she’s holding a gun in the other angles aimed at one of the dudes they think might be a killer. I think he said something sassy but stupid to go with that face. The scene mostly cuts him out of the frame covered up by her holding the gun. It’s hilarious.

      • Miller

        I like the bros leaning on each other, dude on the left is a rock holding up his brahs. And it actually contrasts well with the angle of the palm trees.

        • If you look at the full size image, you can see the white halos around them because the editor said he could white screen the first photo shoot.

          White screen…I wonder how long that took…

  • Miller

    But why male models?

    • As opposed to actors or women?

      The commentary (which I did start listening to) said they needed men who were comfortable being naked with that much nudity, and these Playgirl models fit the bill.

      Or why have the characters be models? Well, i imagine that the role didn’t stretch their acting abilities…

  • BurgundySuit

    Welcome to a new Year of the Month! We’re covering 1993, so here’s your potential movies: https://letterboxd.com/films/year/1993/
    Books: I https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1993_in_literature
    And music: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1993_in_music

    October 4th: BurgundySuit: The Thief and the Cobbler
    October 6th: Gillianren: Tombstone
    October 7th: Gillianren: Attention Must Be Paid on Vincent Price
    October 8th: Carrie Nelson: Yes I Am
    October 9th: BurgundySuit: Chartbusting!
    October 10th: wallflower: Fearless
    October 11th: Belated Comebacker: The Pelican Brief
    October 12th: Pico79: Arcadia
    October 13th: Balthazar Bee: Jason Goes to Hell
    October 15th: Joseph J. Finn: Dave
    October 16th: Sean Hanan: Searching For Bobby Fischer
    October 17th: wallflower: Kristallnacht
    October 18th: Drunk Napoleon: Jurassic Park/Julius Kassendorf: Carnosaur
    October 19th: John Bruni: Carlito’s Way
    October 24th: wallflower: Pleading Guilty
    October 25th: Seth Carlson: Super Mario Bros
    October 27th: Bhammer100: Homicide: Life on the Street/NYPD Blue
    October 29th: Conor Malcolm Crockford: The Fugitive
    October 30th: Miller: Matinee/The Last Action Hero
    October 31st: Anyone can have it really, I just want to make sure we save this date for: The Nightmare Before Christmas
    NO DATE: Jake Gittes: Dazed and Confused
    NO DATE: Wallflower: Fearless
    NO DATE: Wallflower: Pleading Guilty
    NO DATE: scb2012: Mrs. Doubtfire
    NO DATE: silverwheel: World Gone Wrong
    NO DATE: Son of Griff: The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl
    NO DATE: Wallflower: 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould