• The Narrator

    What did we watch last night?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      Community, Season One, Episode Nineteen, “Beginner Pottery”
      “More importantly, you stopped giggling at the word seamen.”

      “Good luck, Pierce!”
      “Don’t need it! Never had it!”

      Jeff picks his new blow-off class of the semester: Beginner Pottery. Unfortunately, there’s a guy who is amazingly good at the class, and Jeff’s efforts to prove he’s a ringer get him kicked out (the Ghosting joke is my favourite example of the show joking about something before taking it deadly seriously); he realises he was projecting his need to be special onto the guy and apologises. Part of the pleasure of revisiting Community is realising the extent to which I see myself in the characters; ironically, a need to be special and instantly good at things is hardly a unique problem.

      Between this and NGE, I’m thinking about identification in stories – not just empathy, but pointing at a character in a story and saying ’it me’. It’s morality and motivation we identify with – I intuitively understand why Jeff would throw a temper tantrum at someone being instantly good at something he isn’t, and why Shinji would go along with whatever people say to avoid conflict, even if the emotional detail explaining why is different. Conversely, I simply recognise, say, Joan’s use of her sexuality, or Vic’s protective attitude towards women – I can feel these things, but they aren’t ‘me’. The Freudian explanation is helpful and interesting, but ultimately emotionally unnecessary.

      Meanwhile, Shirley goes along with Pierce’s idea of a sailing class, and we get a fairly straightforward example of the show imbuing an absurd image with real emotion when Shirley saves a drowning Pierce in a parking lot. I point to this episode when I describe this as a Classic show – on any other show, the final setpiece would be the funniest fucking thing ever, while for this show it’s JUST ANOTHER DAAAAAAAAAAAA

      Scattered Thoughts: We get a rare example of the other study group members (in this case, Annie and Abed) being less active players and more Geek Chorus. Tony Hale plays the pottery teacher – I saw Arrested Development after Community and so didn’t know him the first time around, so this was a delight! Lee Majors is just as great as the sailing teacher, bringing hilarious gravitas to his lines.

      Neon Genesis Evangelion, Episode Nineteen, “Introjection”
      That title sounds like gibberish, but apparently it means “to unconsciously adopt the mindset of others”.

      We pick up where we left off – Shinji, traumatised by what’s happened, threatens to use what power he has left in the Eva to destroy NERV HQ; at first, the bridge crew desperately try to reason with him, but then Gendo just says “fuck it” and cuts off Shinji’s power. In the hospital, Toji has a vision of Shinji and Rei on the train, as he complains that his father doesn’t understand him, and she asks if he ever tried to understand his father. When he wakes up, Shinji vows to never pilot an Eva again, and takes a “fuck this, fuck that, and fuck you” attitude in the face of overwhelming criticism from Kensuke, Gendo, and Asuka.

      The only person who is even vaguely understanding towards him is Misato, who apologises to him for projecting her hopes and dreams onto him and understands his decision to leave completely – she even tells him her discovery that all the students in his class are potential Eva pilots. But Shinji is committed to leaving. Having been in that same place of hopelessness, I recognise what Shinji is doing here – when everything looks hopeless and you’re in tremendous emotional pain, eventually you’ll just be all “fuck it, if I have to suffer, I might as well be selfish about it”. I’ve seen him criticised for being irresponsible in the face of total human extinction, but a) it’s a TV show and b) as a metaphor for depression, it’s pretty straightforwardly healthy; Shinji is so bad at being selfish that of course his first attempt won’t be perfect.

      Of course, before the train gets in, an Angel attacks. Shinji goes to the shelter, and NERV is totally unprepared – Rei’s Eva isn’t repaired from the last fight. At first Gendo tries using Rei in Shinji’s Eva, but the Eva refuses both her and the Dummy System; they’re forced to send in Asuka with Rei as backup. Shinji runs into Kaji, who’s watering his melons. Kaji loves his melons, and figures if he’s going to die he might as well die doing what he wants to do, and when Shinji sees Rei desperately trying to save the day by sacrificing herself, he decides he’s gonna fuck shit up.

      I’ve seen it argued that Shinji comes back exclusively because of Rei, but I think it’s multiple factors – he’s emboldened by his attempt to run away succeeding, which means he’s in a position to listen to Kaji’s advice, and thus he’s ready to act upon his love for Rei; he was only in this position in the first place because his confidence had been slowly building throughout the first half of the series.

      This all leads to a truly hysteria-inducing cascade of ownage, as Shinji and Unit One get to the Angel in the nick of time and BREAK THROUGH A FUCKING WALL and PUNCH THE GODDAMNED ANGEL RIGHT IN THE CHOPS. He drags the motherfucker right out of the base and just beats the piss out of it! Of course, that’s when he runs out of power, and the situation reverses – he gets the piss beaten out of him, and he begs the Eva to get the fuck up and fight already. Just when he’s despairing again, the Eva wakes up.

      It’s just like all the other times the Eva has woken up, right back to the second episode, but this time it’s even worse/better/worse. The Eva had lost its arm, so it simply reattaches it, and it beats the living piss out of the Angel, ripping it to fucking shreds. The way the Eva moves at this point recalls the Angel-Eva from the last episode, but worse – it moves like a feral animal, on all fours, and begins EATING the fucking Angel. As NERV looks on, they’re horrified at this monster, and Ritsuko explains in terror that the Eva is now self-aware. It stands, as its muscles expand and break the armour, and Ritsuko, referring to the Eva as ‘she’, says that the armour is in fact also restraints, binding the Eva to NERV’s will, and it’s now free. Fuyutski and Gendo watch from safety, pleased that their plan is coming to fruition.

      This is the emotional payoff of a literary approach – Shinji’s attack on the Angel is something he’s been slowly building to as he builds in confidence and realises what he wants, and the horror of the Eva is both the payoff of dozens of tiny clues scattered throughout the series, an explanation for all sorts of things like “why did the Eva suddenly kick ass in episode two”, as well as a really, REALLY big hint for the “what are the Evas?” and “What is Gendo’s plan?” mysteries yet to completely pay off.

      Steven Universe, Episode Nineteen, “Coach Steven”
      OH MY GOD WHAT A PISSWEAK FUCKING CLIMAX

      This episode is my frustrations with the series crushed into eleven minutes, a goddamned cocktease of a story. It opens with the Gems on a simple mission: some Gem station thing is fucking up (honestly, the series doesn’t care much more than I do), and they have to destroy it; to do so, Garnet and Amethyst fuse into Sugilite, much to Pearl’s protests. Steven is as excited as I am, and she doesn’t disappoint, being awesome in both design and acting – she’s voiced by Nikki Minaj, and somehow does manage to sound like a cross between Amethyst and Garnet.

      The fusion of personality traits is what makes fusion such an awesome concept – what parts of you are so distinct and important that they’d come up in a fusion? How would my personality and your personality mingle if we fused? What challenges would a fusion face? Sugilite is a fascinating creature already, having all the cockiness of Amethyst and all the brutality of Garnet (put two one-dimensional characters together, and you get a two-dimensional character).

      Naturally, this is Steven fucking Universe, and we have to drop this fascinating science fiction concept for Steven making a gym for his buddies. This is almost forgivable when the story segues to Pearl’s insecurity over Steven loving Sugilite; I even accept the show suddenly becoming a musical for one scene because the song is a) adorable and b) a look into Pearl’s psyche that deepens her beyond the ‘smart, likes order’ surface.

      What shits me is the ostensible fucking climax of the episode. Sugilite has destroyed the warp thingy to where they went, and walks across the ocean to get home (Sugilite is huge). She’s enraged with Pearl for abandoning her, and starts going Godzilla on the place, targeting Pearl. Just when Pearl loses all hope, Steven yells her encouragement. She decides, yes, she can do it, dodges Sugilite for a few steps, distracts her for a second and then Sugilite takes herself out with her own fucking weapon.

      No triumph. No loss. No sacrifice. No meaningful revelation of character. No payoff to ideas seeded throughout the story. Just pure unadulterated rage at having my fucking time wasted. If this were like The Shield or Community, Sugilite would have been defeated by some tremendous sacrifice on Steven and Pearl’s part, and nothing would be the same ever again, and we would have gone on an amazing emotional journey. If this were like Mad Men or Neon Genesis Evangelion, we would get a fascinating exploration of fusion’s possibilities, and/or Steven, Pearl, and Sugilite (and therefore Garnet and Amethyst)’s personalities, and Sugilite would be taken out by some clever trick. If this were Rick And Morty, both sides would happen at once with a healthy doppling of horror.

      But this is Steven Universe, a positive, uplifting show that dangles a cool idea in front of our faces and then yanks it away before anything interesting threatens to break out. For fuck’s sake.

      • The Narrator

        One important question about that SU climax; is it a White Boy Bob situation where Sugilite trips and falls onto her weapon? Because if so, you are greatly underrating this program and it is clearly the defining artwork of our times, and times to come.

      • ZoeZ

        “No pottery at doctor school?”
        “Medical school?”
        “Pottery school.”
        “Pottery school?”
        “Oh, pottery school, how long?”

        What I want to discuss is how frequently I evoke that exchange as a summary of my own Jeff-like neuroses, but I’m getting too distracted by how terrible that plot resolution on SU sounds. I mean, I am okay with a show taking a theme-first approach, within the limits of good storytelling, but if you’re going to do that, “the problem eventually destroys itself” has to have its own kind of weight beyond convenience, and has to have its own life-altering impact. Otherwise, it’s not a story, it’s just… a collection of things happening.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          I keep thinking of “what ifs” that would make me like this show.

          “What if the individual episodes had a dramatic structure?”
          “What if it actually explored any of the concepts it brings up?”
          “What if it settled purely into being a nihilistic joke machine (a la Sealab 2021)?”
          “What if I’d been sold on this show as gay nihilism and not a Great Moral Work?”

          Last year I watched a show called DAAS Kapital, and while I didn’t completely enjoy it I could respect the fact that it committed to nothing – not character, not plot, and not theme – because it really was just a nihilistic comedy. Steven Universe can’t even commit to being that!

          It’s a shame, because I really was ready to watch the show in the fandom-friendly way it asks, but I apparently I have to believe you’re treating storytelling with even a modicum of seriousness to enjoy it.

          • ZoeZ

            Occasionally I see trailers for movies where my immediate response is, “That’s not a movie, that’s a screensaver.” From what you’re saying about SU, it’s not a show but a fishbowl: brightly colored and maybe pleasantly distracting, but, despite the illusion of movement, fundamentally staid.

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          “I feel like I’m being interrogated, but by someone who doesn’t want to know anything important…”

      • Fresno Bob

        Tony Hale manages to deliver two classic lines: “No Ghosting” and “I want to kiss you on the mouth.”

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Your rage at Steven Universe is continually hilarious. The problem doesn’t seem to be tone or message, it’s story: the show just doesn’t want to challenge anybody.

        Jeff and his antipathy towards Rich is a situation where I recognize myself in a character and can learn along with him. I usually am inherently suspicious of positive, friendly people and sometimes people really are just like that with no ulterior motives. Maybe I can’t be like them but I can understand where they’re coming from without attacking their pov.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          Is that a subtle dig at my Steven Universe rage at the end? 😉

          The thing is, this is the first time it’s actually made me genuinely angry. Fusion in general and Sugilite in particular is so cool that I couldn’t help but be miffed when we walked away from it, but I was willing to go with it if it meant deepening a character we already know. It was only when it turned out to be for a half-assed conclusion that I got angry. The potential to be good is so much more frustrating than something that was never for me in the first place.

          For me the catharsis of “Beginner Pottery” comes less from the Rich thing and more from the embarrassment of failing at things; it’s a very hard rut to break out of.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Haha no, keep up the rage! This is how I started to get with Luke Cage, which half asses every single plot on the damn show – and similarly there was a potential to be good that simply did not happen (great score though).

      • Miller

        I mean, you watched the show, not me, but in reading your synopsis it does not seem odd that a creature who is a fusion of brutality and arrogance gets so angry that its anger is self-destructive. That is some kids show 101 right there.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          That’s true, but this is one of those situations where I find it satisfyingly logical.

    • The Narrator

      The Shield, “Homewrecker”: It’s a testament to how good and tense that opening is that my favorite thing about this episode isn’t the way Mike violently turns on Vic’s hard-luck speech about Corinne. Or Shane’s deer-in-the-headlights stare when Danny interrogates him about having a woman on the Task Force. Or the whole Aceveda/Julian plot.

    • Dead Calm – I thought this was a shark movie for some reason (I think I was getting it confused with Open Water) but it’s actually a Billy Zane movie, about Billy Zane terrorising Nicole Kidman on a yacht because he’s crazy or whatever. It does all the right things to be a really tense thriller, BUT it also does a couple of hilariously wrong things, like having an opening sequence that is completely pointless and has no bearing on the rest of the plot. The bad stuff is still hugely entertaining though, so I had a good time.

      It’d make a really good double-bill with Event Horizon, because they both have Sam Neill exploring abandoned vessels with terrifying consequences.

      • ZoeZ

        I actually find it entirely, if intuitively, reasonable to confuse a shark movie and a Billy Zane movie.

        • Fresno Bob

          Bill Zane is metaphorical shark in many ways.

          • He has frequently (at least twice) appeared in movies set almost entirely in an ocean. That’s enough for me.

          • Now I’m imagining Titanic but Billy Zane turns into a shark in the end.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            He’ll eat the women and children first.

          • I’m actually a little surprised the Sharknado people haven’t already made this.

          • ZoeZ

            Now I’m picturing a well-dressed shark saying, “Something Picasso? He won’t amount to a thing. He won’t, trust me!”

      • clytie

        Random trivia: in 1988 a ship called the Patanela disappeared along with its passengers. It’s a rather infamous in Australia to this day. One of the ship’s crew had worked as a rigger on Dead Calm.

        http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2008/01/29/2149320.htm

        • Spooky! I wonder if Billy Zane has an alibi…

    • ZoeZ

      Oh, hey, I remembered what I watched over the weekend:

      Colossal, which couldn’t pull off balancing its high-stakes science fiction plot and its high-stakes personal plot. It started promisingly and then devolved into characters inexplicably never considering obvious options (once Oscar sets off the fireworks in the bar, complete with witnesses, why does Gloria not even consider, as a temporary solution, turning him into the cops for that?) and considering them only when they could do so with a metaphorical veil drawn, i.e., we can’t have one character murder another unless they can do it through a monster battle. Also, the characterization went from complex to frustratingly contrived, with Oscar as the Embodiment of Toxic Masculinity and Dan Stevens’s pretty reasonable ex-boyfriend as Yes All Men. It’s a shame mostly because the early bits are good, subtle, and powerful.

      Diabolique: I admire the strewing of the red herrings here, as a twist on an archetypal noir plot gets twisted again, but not without sowing a lot of wonderfully-done misdirection (the bit with the neighbors’ frustration over the plumbing noise is especially good). And the final bathtub scene is rightfully iconic. It’s the noise when Christina hits the floor that sells it, the sound of what was once a body becoming just dead weight.

      • thesplitsaber

        Ill say this about Anne Hathaway (and im a massive massive fan)-she always takes big swings with material. I just wish shed connect more often.

    • Twin Peaks (Original Series) – I have mixed feelings about Lynch. He’s an amazing director who has complete control over all aspects of the movie, but something about his works have never fully grasped me. But something about Twin Peaks connected. I think the constraints of being on ABC toned down the weirdness and the soap opera elements gave it a more familiar foundation. For the first time, I feel like I understand something about Lynch for certain: he’s a moralist. It’s kinda obvious in hindsight.

      The first half of the show (up until the reveal) is magnificent. The back half was often dreary, but the finale was excellent. It was hard to care about those middle episodes, though, with nothing happening or progressing. Earle’s arrival gave the story more shape, and the ending largely brought it back around to the throughline from the first half of the show.

      I do feel like I missed something by waiting so long to watch it, and a certain way of watching it is gone. Then ending is a HUGE cliffhanger, right? So for the intervening years, the story of the show’s cancellation and what would happen as as much part of the lore as the show itself. But now that’s resolved – viewers can leap straight into The Return, and I wonder if losing that intervening time affects how we understand the show.

      Also, and I can’t explain this, but the show is hitting me right where I need right now in my life. Like, there’s no clarity as to why or how, but something about it hits me deep.

      (NB: I’ve seen TP:FWWM and started The Return but haven’t written on them yet. In due time).

      • I agree with all of this. I’ve appreciated Lynch’s other stuff a lot more when I’ve rewatched it post-Twin Peaks though – I think the slightly toned-down Lynchiness (possibly combined with the toned-UP Lynchiness of The Return) help make a lot of his other films fit better into my brain, somehow.

      • thesplitsaber

        ‘But something about Twin Peaks connected. I think the constraints of being on ABC toned down the weirdness and the soap opera elements gave it a more familiar foundation. ‘

        Its important to note that Twin Peaks was a pretty much 50/50 collaboration between Mark Frost and Lynch. Frost had a tv background in soap operas and was able to stream line Lynchs tangential approach. Of course this works both ways, and when Lynch took less interest in the show in mid season 2 Frost and Co were left doing a pale imitation of him.

    • Fresno Bob

      The Haunting (1963) – This was pretty great! I’m not a fan of internal monologues being used in movies, but it kind of works better than usual here. It’s pretty amazing that a film from 1963 has such blatant, barely subtextual suggestions that a major character is a lesbian. It’s clear very early on that Theo is trying to strike up a relationship with Nell, but Nell is having none of it. It walks a careful line by making Theo someone who is ESP sensitive, but when Nell calls her “unnatural”, there is enough evidence to suggest that she’s talking about Theo’s sexuality. It just so happens to that Theo is a much more appealing character than Nell.

      Also, this story (and I’m assuming Shirley Jackson’s original story is much more responsible for this) was a clear inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, just layered with more of his quirky obsessions. I think Kubrick’s film strips down the King text enough to make the comparisons much clearer, but the idea that a haunted place would want to claim a person’s soul for eternity, and that a certain type of damaged soul or a person with certain supernatural abilities would be its “type” of soul is very clearly stated here. Also, the history of the haunting over generations is a big part of King’s book and Kubrick’s film.

      Anyway, Great stuff.

    • DJ JD

      Sucker Punch, not the whole thing (egad), but enough to rekindle my frustrating fascination with how close Snyder’s fiascos come to something like brilliance. The man perpetually comes *this* close to something that would really stick with me–and then he does the tonal equivalent of farting on it with some other thing he thought of that would be totally awesome. E.g. the setup of a WW1 fought only by the machine-reanimated dead, an ongoing simulacrum of an outrage against nature, playing out the carnage of the carnage and set to the scene of a bombed-out cathedral carried all sorts of iconic weight for me–except of course it’s only there so he can have five stick-thin girls in short-shorts saunter through there to be “awesome.” Moments like this happened all over the place for me: taken entirely alone, the image of a gigantic stone samurai smashing through a meditation table, candles flying everywhere, would be a fine still to see on, say, DeviantArt. The man just has no control over his own subtext, and it had me wondering if his monomaniacal focus on a single thudding tone in Man of Steel and BvS:DoJ:NsA were a deliberate response to his own awareness of his shortcomings as a director.

      But in this case, his self-appointed Magnum Opus (…I guess? My Latin for “great big dumb ambitious work that everyone laughed at” is rusty) doesn’t even have a clear story. So, three levels of “reality”: Real-Life, Imagined-Brothel Reality and WTFery. Two of the girls are killed in IBR and I decided that God help me, I wanted to know what this movie was telling me by showing me that. Where they actually dead? Did they get lobotomies too? Did they turn against Babydoll (wince) so they’re “dead” to her? No surprise here, but there’s no answer to be found. The closest I could get is that Babydoll (wince) was the only one who was actually hurt or killed in RL, per an interview with Snyder; everything beyond that point is (rampant) fan speculation. I defy anyone anywhere to find out where the information that nobody but Babydoll (wince) was communicated in the film itself.

      I don’t know why I did this to myself, but I did. When Rabin writes about being fascinated by what doesn’t work, I find myself agreeing a bit–but more than that, I really do think Snyder has these moments of brilliance. It’s just that it’s not like he’s a diamond covered in pigshit, he has managed to alchemically synthesize diamond and pigshit together into something you can’t use at all, either for the things you’d use diamonds for, or pigshit for. I’d still love to see him find a solid, level-headed, slightly boring partner and take his cues from that person. You know, someone like Michael Bay.

      • The Ploughman

        I’m never sure whether to bother with Suckerpunch since everything I’ve read about it makes it sound like something unlike I’ve seen before (always appealing, even if the result is less than stellar) but that I’m going to be frustrated by its shortcomings and inability to get out of its own way (always bad, even if it’s in service of something interesting).

        • DJ JD

          Sounds to me like you’ve got it dialed in. It’s a fascinating fiasco of a movie, but it really is a fiasco. I didn’t mention the acting, but I was struck this time by how all-over-the-place it is, acting-wise. The older actors are all solidly reliable (Scott Glenn, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino) but the younger group is…not so solidly reliable. Honestly, sometimes I’m amazed Vanessa Hudgens has had such a long career.

          • thesplitsaber

            ‘The older actors are all solidly reliable (Scott Glenn, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino)’

            I believe hes only in the directors cut but Jon Hamm is easily the best part of the movie. Just having him monologue is something even Snyder cant mess up.

      • thesplitsaber

        Snyder is a master of images-as you point out its those images, not character, plot or anything else that stands out in the movie. As a creator of striking visuals he really is great (though relies to much on cgi for my taste). Unfortunately film is a storytelling medium and his movies could care less about that.

    • clytie

      Zoo, featuring a woman cutting herself out of a giant invisible snake!

      Unsolved Mysteries, of course.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp – Finished it and my god was this fun, from Camp Tigerclaw attacking with rich kid weapons to Reagan hearing McKinley’s attack and just saying “You’re right McKinley.” Ultimately this is a bunch of thirty and forty somethings pretending to be sixteen again in a wildly absurd, insane environment that outgrew whatever it was parodying years ago, and there’s something so sweet and weird about it all. Also “Higher and HIGHEERRRRR”

      Batman The Animated Series – “The Laughing Fish” and “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” The former is one of the best episodes of animation maybe…ever? It’s the perfect Batman/Joker story, highlighting how the Joker screws around with pop culture norms and Batman’s usual preservation of the social order. Bruce Timm’s direction and Paul Dini’s writing are excellent. The second episode is fun but really suffers because of some awful, awful animation. The cels look barely filled in enough, like someone inked it once then threw their hands up. Still Julian Glover is a perfect Riddler, all self satisfied ego and amusement at his own game. My favorite part though is probably the very 1992 computer game Riddle of the Minotaur – my mom could’ve played this.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        *shakes my fist at you for not watching The Shield season five already*

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I’m heading to England pal I’ve got stuff going on! Really though I just am behind on Twin Peaks.

      • I think I liked First Day of Camp a little bit more than the original film, the ridiculousness of that cast playing teenagers just pushes it up a level.

        It’s kind of a shame that the characters have to actually be older in the new reunion series (which I haven’t started yet), but I guess they’d probably pushed that joke as far as they could.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          The original movie is kind of self-contained in its insanity where the show has to live up to an older work more but the added plots like Camp Tigerclaw and reveals are so bizarre and arguably make the older movie even crazier.

      • Miller

        I looooove Riddle of the Minotaur, and Alfred casually sass-correcting Robin’s wrong answer.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          The whole theme park recreation too creates some great action set pieces like the mechanical flying hand and giant minotaur.

          • Fresno Bob

            Love the flying hand.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            That feels like a Rick & Morty joke. “FLYINNG HAAANDDDDDD!”

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        First Day of Camp was pretty great; I haven’t been feeling Ten Years Later to the same degree.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I haven’t watched it yet and I’m a little worried that’ll be the case. It makes sense that there’d be some diminishing returns but aw maaaaaannnnn.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Some people really enjoy it, but it does feel, strangely, both stretched and padded: There’s not enough good jokes, and the cast of characters has gotten so bloated that they have too many people to serve to really let anything good sink in.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Some people really enjoy it, but it does feel, strangely, both stretched and padded: There’s not enough good jokes, and the cast of characters has gotten so bloated that they have too many people to serve to really let anything good sink in.

            I mean, it’s not bad. I just haven’t felt it was up to the level of the movie or previous season.

      • thesplitsaber

        I believe the Laughing Fish is based on one of Dennis O’Neil’s legendary early 70s Baman issues. Per Wikipedia ‘Note: This episode is based on three Batman comics, blended together; “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” from Batman #251 September 1973 by Denny O’Neil with art by Neal Adams, followed by “The Laughing Fish” and “Sign of the Joker!” from Detective Comics #475 and #476, of February/March 1978, both by writer Steve Englehart with art by Marshall Rogers.

        And while the episode hasnt aged very well (and according to the behind the scenes material none of the writers liked doing Riddler material) If Youre So Smart completely ground up re invented that character. I think if you ask fans from my generation who were kids when it aired how they thought of The Riddler it would be the green suited gentleman thief, not Gorshin or Carrey’s Joker-lite takes on the character.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          That they are!

          Yeah, I quite loved Glover’s Riddler, especially compared to the goofy over the top bullshit of Carrey. The We Hate Movies guys had a good note that a lot of his terribleness in Batman Forever is rooted in a total lack of editing – nobody yelled cut or stopped him improving endlessly.

          • thesplitsaber

            I mean Carrey and Jones both had the same problem as Gorshin-there characters werent anything more than ‘Do what the guy thats played the Joker did!’.

    • Miller

      WHAS reunion, episodes 3-6 — the wackier this gets, the better. Benjamin and Meloni are a joy and Reagan endlessly pissing all over a diorama is great over-the-top vulgarity. But it’s still a bit slow, a bit behind the beat, never more so than the musical sting/credits splash, which was a highlight of every episode in First Day Of Camp and just feels off here. The music is brilliant otherwise though, Soul Mirror’s faux Spin Doctors shit in particular.

      This led to Mrs. Miller saying the show reminded her of an early 90s movie called Indian Summer, which turned out to be a Big Chill-esque movie about adults returning to camp with an absolutely loaded cast (Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton, Diane Lane, Sam Raimi!) that I somehow have never heard of. And that led to looking to reviews on IMDB and finding this confused and irritable gem:

      “I have to say the worst part of the movie was the first half hour. I was really confused about who was who. For example, Bill Paxson’s character had long hair and was wearing a jacket. Then, when all the males arrived at camp, it turned out there was a character who looked like Bill Paxson, but wasn’t. I said where’s Bill Paxson?”

      “Where’s Bill Paxson?!” has been said roughly 2,000 times in the Miller household since.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        When Bill Paxson is not onscreen, etc.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Where is Bill Paxton? Sniff.

        • Miller

          Yeah, that is the only thing that makes it a bit less funny.

      • There was an interview with David Wain on the AVClub the other day and I’m sure Indian Summer was one of the films he namechecked – I remember because I had never heard of it either.

        • Miller

          I wasn’t really huge into movies at that age but I feel like I have a decent grasp of mainstream stuff that existed then and this fell completely through the cracks.

          • I find it weirdly exciting when I run into a movie with a great cast that I’ve somehow never heard of, although the reason is generally “it wasn’t any good”, which is admittedly not THAT exciting

          • Miller

            This was my experience with The Second Civil War — Joe Dante and Phil Hartman? Holy shit yes, why am I only hearing about this now! Oh…

      • Indian Summer wasn’t bad. I mean, I vaguely remember kind of liking it as a teenager but not appreciating it. Maybe I’d like it more now that I’m older.

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        So I’ve only seen through episode 4, but: Was Soul Mirror’s music playing in the scene where A.D. Miles’ character was cooking? Because all I could think listening to it and looking at him was “This sounds like it’s deliberately a Spin Doctors rip-off.”

    • jroberts548

      La Dolce Vita.
      Me, towards the start of the move: “more like décolletage vita, amirite?”
      Me, towards the end of the movie: “I’m starting to think it’s named ‘the sweet life’ sarcastically.”

      I watched it over two days because of how long it is which probably heightens the contrast between the front half and the back half of the movie, but wow. Although the movie has an episodic structure where each vignette is only loosely connected to the next, these vignettes do add up to something in the end, ultimately, a portrait of morose hollow decadence.

      The movie follows probably about a week in the life of Marcello, a journalist in Rome and also a real jerk. The first half of the movie consists of him meeting and bedding beautiful women, driving a cool car, and attending stylish parties where everyone mostly strikes fashionable poses while smoking and trying to sound intellectual. It’s all downhill from there. It’s not like anything really happens; we mostly just see more of the same stuff, but presented in a different valence. That little creep Marcello is still living the dream, but what if the dream kinda sucks?

      Other observations:
      – the shot composition is almost too good. Even at the film’s most morose, every shot is gorgeous. That’s on purpose; the beauty of the image clashes with the ugliness of what it’s depicting.
      – Maybe fixating on how much I love Marcello’s car is missing the point, but man, the Triumph TR3A is a beautiful car.
      – maybe fixating on Anita Ekberg is missing the point, but dayum.
      – “Paparazzo” as a term for an aggressively intrusive celebrity photographer was coined by this movie. Coincidentally, when I turned off the DVD player and the tv had been on abc last, it went to a documentary about princess Diana being hounded by the paparazzi.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Oh I think you’re supposed to focus on Ekberg! That fountain shot is like a beautiful, haunted dream, the kind you know is about to end. It’s a very fucked up scene in terms of gender politics (idealization of woman as object, etc)…but it just works so well.

        • Fresno Bob

          I seem to remember the movie makes it clear that Ekberg’s external life, and the focus on her insanely apparent beauty, is to the detriment of her happiness, and is presented as such. But it has been a while since I watched it.

          • jroberts548

            Ekberg’s character isn’t any happier than anyone else in the movie, except perhaps for a moment or two with the kitten and in the fountain.

        • When Mastrionni died, the Trevi Fountain was draped in black. When Ekberg died, I don’t think a similar honor was given. That’s a rough commentary on the scene.

          (I mean, I think it’s one of the greatest movie scenes of all time, but Fellini has issues with women).

      • Cue Ebert’s Great Movies essay:

        Movies do not change, but their viewers do. When I saw “La Dolce Vita” in 1960, I was an adolescent for whom “the sweet life” represented everything I dreamed of: sin, exotic European glamour, the weary romance of the cynical newspaperman. When I saw it again, around 1970, I was living in a version of Marcello’s world; Chicago’s North Avenue was not the Via Veneto, but at 3 a.m. the denizens were just as colorful, and I was about Marcello’s age.

        When I saw the movie around 1980, Marcello was the same age, but I was 10 years older, had stopped drinking, and saw him not as a role model but as a victim, condemned to an endless search for happiness that could never be found, not that way. By 1991, when I analyzed the film a frame at a time at the University of Colorado, Marcello seemed younger still, and while I had once admired and then criticized him, now I pitied and loved him. And when I saw the movie right after Mastroianni died, I thought that Fellini and Marcello had taken a moment of discovery and made it immortal. There may be no such thing as the sweet life. But it is necessary to find that out for yourself.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I related quite extensively to Ebert’s review after watching it and do now – I’m 25 and can envy/have lived out Marcello’s hedonistic lifestyle but I also already know the pitfalls of that aristocratic partying, especially if you’re trying to find an objective truth somewhere in between. Like Marcello

    • The Ploughman

      Didn’t get anything watched, but started a book – The Crooked Hinge by John Dickson Carr. I think somebody mentioned Carr here a while ago (@ZoeZDean:disqus maybe?) and it sounded appealing. I knew it was the right choice from the first page when one of the cast of characters was this:

      “Victoria Daly. An inoffensive 35-year-old spinster whose death a year earlier may not have been accidental.”

      Ah, that magical time when the English idle class, 35-year-old “spinsters” and all, could be shaken out of their idle hours and bathed in mystery. Even better, the main plot concerns two men who claim to be the same survivor of the Titanic sinking. The Ploughwoman devours any kind of British period piece. My interest in that is zero, until they are elaborately murdered so the parlor games may begin.

      • ZoeZ

        I don’t think this was me, but that sentence also makes me want to read it.

      • I’m watching an online course on Detective & Mystery Fiction, and Carr is a big feature, esp as a master of the Locked-Room Mystery (The Hollow Man apparently being the peak of the form). The course has also made me realize I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel, nor seen a movie based on her works.

        • Son of Griff

          I went through a huge Christie phase in 6th grade, strictly for the mystery elements, and I’ve been meaning to re-read some of her books to catch up on the cultural nuances that I missed. A lot of the recent adaptations play up the antiquated period details for a lark, but I suspect that their is more depth than what the movies generally allow. The David Suchet Poirot series and the recent “And Then There were None” adaptation show a bit more ambition in getting back to the source material without camping it up, and I’m hoping the “Murder on the Orient Express” remake follows suit.

          • The Ploughman

            I had a similar Christie phase around the same age. My first was Three Act Tragedy which blew my young mind with its reveal.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, Episodes 3-4. The stuff with Chris Meloni and Jon Benjamin is the best, but this still feels overstuffed and underwritten.

      Angie Tribeca, season 2, episodes 3-4. I’m really digging season two, as the show becomes less of an obvious Police Squad! homage (not that it loses the absurdity or sight gags) and finds its own voice.

  • BurgundySuit

    Year of the Month continues (from an idea by Elizabeth Lerner)!
    Possible books here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1985_in_literature Movies here: https://letterboxd.com/hfilums/year/1985/ And music here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1985_in_music

    August 11th: Gillianren: The Black Cauldron
    August 14th: Balthazar Bee: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
    August 15th: Vomas: Summer Rental
    August 16th: clytie: Smooth Talk
    August 17th: BurgundySuit: Best of the Hot 100
    August 18th: BurgundySuit: Worst of the Hot 100
    August 19th: John Bruni: Neil Young’s Old Ways
    August 20th: Son of Griff: The Breakfast Club
    August 21st: Miller: Hard Rock Zombies
    August 22nd: Wallflower: Into the Night
    August 24th: The Ploughman: Ender’s Game
    August 25th: Jacob Thomas Klemmer: Tampopo
    August 27th: Bhammer: Ran
    August 28th: ZoeZ: Lonesome Dove
    August 29th: Lgauge: Hail Mary

  • Conor Malcolm Crockford

    http://www.rogerebert.com/balder-and-dash/its-about-us-the-legacy-of-bonnie-and-clyde

    Roundtable on the 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde.