• Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      LOST, Season Two, Episode Eighteen, “Dave”
      “I like that I have a good relationship with my mom. I like that I make my grampa Tito laugh. I like chicken.”
      “That last one wasn’t about you, Hugo.”
      “I like that I like chicken?”

      “You’re lying.”
      “No, I’m done lying.”

      This episode, more than any other and more than any other TV show or movie or whatever, had a specific and profound effect on me as a person. By the point it aired, I was fifteen, and a fairly typical fifteen year old boy; I enjoyed insult humour and in particular enjoyed making fun of my cousin for being fat (I swear, he thought it was funny too). By the time this episode aired, Hurley was one of my favourites, and at the time I found myself identifying with Dave as the cool, edgy, rugged individualist dude in a confined space. The revelation that Dave was not only imaginary, he was a toxic influence on Hurley who needed to be cut out was a profoundly disturbing one that left me shaking and thinking for days.

      Of course, what I’ve always noticed was that, while presumably the writer, Jack Bender, and Jorge Garcia would be pleased to hear that, it could not possibly have been the intention of anyone involved to ‘teach a lesson’ about empathy; it’s simply the logical result of my particular worldview bouncing off this particular story. What they brought to me – a fat guy I empathise with, a cool douche I empathise with, and a conclusion where someone makes an active choice to cut a negative influence out of his life – and what I brought to them – a desire to grow and change as a person, a perfect mixture of compassion and lack of empathy, a fear of being a toxic influence that I never knew I had before this episode, enough innocence to take Dave being real for granted (in rewatch, it’s so much more obvious) – and created a very specific emotional journey. It’s an object lesson in the idea that trying to ‘teach your audience a lesson’ is an act of hubris in itself; nobody could have foreseen my reaction, and nobody can recreate it.

      (Come to think of it, Lost turned me into a Lost character)

      What’s great coming back to it is seeing how perfectly Hurley’s story bounces off the main story, too; I’m even more primed to like Hurley’s on-island conclusion than I was before, because it’s about Hurley picking and choosing what reality is and rejecting the easy, self-absorbed answer for one more difficult and more rewarding. Meanwhile, down in the hatch, Locke is getting so many contradictory facts and has much less clear-cut moral choices.

      Ownage: Dave owns Hurley whenever he says he’s not real. Sawyer gets owned by an Oreo, and then Hurley after pushing him too far.

      Hercules Returns, David Parker
      Celebrated my 27th birthday* by rewatching my number one favourite film of all time. “Favourite” does not mean “perfect”, but it does mean I’ve seen it a million times and could see it a million more and never get tired of it. The premise is that a hapless newbie cinema owner discovers on opening night that the old muscleman film he ordered is in Italian, and so he, his projectionist, and his publicist are forced to redub it in English themselves; the majority of the film is that.

      I was amazed, though not really when thinking about it, how densely plotted the story is; every single character has a unique personality and motivation, and each of them takes steps to advance the story in some way (a really incredible feat, considering it’s just redubbing an Italian muscleman film). This isn’t to say that it’s a Shield-style tragedy, just that the basic and rapid dramatic movement allows so much absurd comedy, in such a way that nothing ever gets old and the absurdity of the plot just keeps piling up – unlike most dramatically structured stories, I couldn’t tell you the premise of the main story because so much of it piles up. It’s barely over an hour and it’s a truly breathless hour. This is precisely my taste in comedy.

      The weakest point is the framing story, though I’ve come to like it over the years. If nothing else, not only does the opening compress every cliche in Australian cinema (from an anti-authoritarian hero to a cartoonish brownnoser to a feisty feminist sidekick who punches misogynists to a dude with a wacky name) into fifteen minutes, it compresses the cliche Australian morality (that cartoony anti-authoritarianism, plus a general sense of being just enough of a dick to your friends to be funny – “I’ll pay you shit wages and you can live in the theatre.” “Done.”).

      On the other hand, that mentality is also what makes the main story so funny. It combines ordinary Australian attitudes with a terrible Italian muscleman movie – even if the slang has changed, each and every character feels like a cartoony exaggeration of someone I’ve known, and their attitudes towards each other are extremely familiar.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riYR1ZEYXoY

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNOdHQyzX2Y

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDmREiq9Xmk

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UfgMBl3USU

      *I now have 365 days to become a rock star, then die.

      • ZoeZ

        Happy (belated) birthday! And I definitely want to see this movie now.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          I’m now the same age as Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop, and now I’ve been sorting out Significant Pop Culture Ages. I’ve got:

          – Spider-Man (or any teenage superhero, e.g. Buffy, with Spider-Man just being mine), 16
          – Spike Spiegel, 27
          – Batman, 30
          – Vic Mackey/Commander Shepard, 35

          • ZoeZ

            I had the unsettling-yet-invigorating epiphany a while back that I was now definitively old enough to actually do things as opposed to just “have potential.” I am now only one year away from being Batman’s age, so I really need to get into gear and start saving Gotham from itself.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Well, you have published three short stories. But yeah, I know the feeling – when I turned 25, I felt the strong urge to go out and do, and now being 27 and still not having ‘done’ has invigorated me.

          • I turned 30 this year had a month-long freak-out where I realized that I was not merely getting older but officially aging. You know those celebrities who die in their 60s, and everyone says they’re too young? I’m halfway there. And I’ve done…? [looks back at life, single tear rolls down cheek].

          • I love all you crazy kids. Trust me, y’all will be just fine. Just SPEAK UP, willya?

          • I can’t believe I’ve reached Vic Mackey’s age without ever having *checks wikipedia* “routinely beaten suspects”!

            Or, you know, seeing any of The Shield.

          • ZoeZ

            You are hereby commanded to at least shave your head.

          • As a 35-year-old man, time itself is providing this service.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹
          • Drunk Napoleon

            Ah, but looking at it from another point of view, he does begin the series over a decade into a career that he loves with a wife and three children.

          • Ooh, so close. If I can swap out the children for cats then DEAL.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Well, next year, you can look forward to reaching Homer Simpson’s age.

          • Delmars Whiskers

            I’m at the age where I can officially say I’ve squandered my potential.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Is Vic canonically 35? I thought he was closer to 40.

          • To my knowledge, the one thing we know for sure is that he’s been LAPD for 15 years as of season five. I’d guess he’s in the 36-40 range.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Michael Chiklis himself was 39 at the time of the show’s premiere, so I’ve always thought he was a little older, like 38-43.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            For some reason I though Chiklis was 35 at the show’s beginning; I’ll mentally shift to Vic being 40 just to round it up.

      • Happy Birthday! And I also want to see this now, it sounds great!

      • Also I remember loving this episode. Hurley was absolutely my favourite to begin with, although I began to lean towards Desmond later on, and then I stopped watching at some point because television but I guess I would have eventually picked *checks wikipedia* “Richard Alpert” as my third and final favourite.

      • The way Lost kept evolving, not going from A to B to C but spinning off into D₁ to D₂ to D₃, so on, meant that relationships developed and changed in ways that became so meaningful and touching. Hurley/Sawyer was one of the very best, not the least because first the power flipped and then they came to become genuine and deep friends. Something I just realized is that after a couple of seasons of nicknames/insults (there’s a supercut of them somewhere on the DVDs), Sawyer always calls him Hugo. (Note that Sawyer and Hurley both go by aliases.) The nonlinear (in two senses: nonsequential and multi-lined) nature of Lost‘s storytelling gave the creators lots of opportunities, and they took most of them.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          I find that organic approach to storytelling so attractive. That’s where it feels like it crosses into magic, when individual elements just keep bouncing off each other in unpredictable but logical ways.

      • clytie
      • Miller

        Happy birthday! And characters screwing with movies like that is a great subset of comedy, Bob’s Burgers had a lovely episode doing something similar with its universe’s fake Lone Wolf And Cub flicks.

      • The Narrator
    • ZoeZ

      The Leftovers, “Lens.” In an episode where everyone is great, the MVP award actually swerves around Carrie Coon and goes to Justin Theroux for his shaken, vulnerable, brave final scene, with Kevin struggling against himself to admit something immense to the woman he loves. (Although Nora’s relieved, nervy laughter when the phone call veers into talk of demons and Erika’s straight-on steely stare in their interview are close seconds.)

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        His very firm, kind “We need to talk about it now.” is a great line reading. He’s so terrified.

        Also Erika-Nora in the interview is one of the most riveting things I’ve seen in TV. Its that awareness that the human face can say anything.

    • Delmars Whiskers

      The two-part Walker: Texas Ranger in which Chuck Norris goes undercover as a Mexican peasant named Gomez, which he accomplishes by apparently slapping some black shoe polish in his hair and…well, that’s pretty much it. I should point out two things: 1) The bad guy is played by Clifton Collins Jr, and if you didn’t know he was a good actor, you’d sure never guess it from the preening stereotype he plays here. And 2) This episode was written by the show’s producer, Gordon Dawson, who was Sam Peckinpah’s right hand for some of his best films, including a co-writing credit for Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia.

      • Miller

        You know how plague movies will timestamp significant moments in the outbreak? Day Zero in the tragic Walker: Texas Ranger infection was a few days back, and you are now the guy who is coughing steadily.

        • Delmars Whiskers

          But I’d probably receive surprisingly prominent billing, even though I’d be dead by the half hour mark.

    • The Bride came C.O.D. – a mid-tier screwball comedy that maybe should have been a top-tier one. The cast is first rate (James Cagney, Bette Davis and a great bunch of character actors in support), it has a fun premise (he’s a pilot who offers to divert her elopement flight to deliver her safely into the arms of her father, they crash in the desert near a ghost town) and it’s well directed. The script just has a bit too much slack in it though, and it never quite crackles like it should. I’ve only really seen Cagney and Davis in more serious fare though and they were good fun as the traditional “screwball couple who hate each other for 90 minutes then suddenly fall in love”.

      Broad City, “Florida” – the episodes that take the main characters out of NYC generally aren’t the best, but this one was a lot of fun.

    • PCguy

      THE ODD COUPLE (1968)

      What exactly is the reputation of this film? I was under the impression that this was a comedic classic but, while the film is extremely funny in places, this is, at its’ core, a dark drama about depression and loneliness. I’m assuming that the Odd Couple people refer to fondly is the television version? I’ve never seen that and, while I remember reading Brighton Beach Memoirs at some point, they never taught us Neil Simon in school. I always assumed he wasn’t literary but I would read this play. It has the strangest deus ex machina ending that plays off of the horribly bourgeoisie heterosexual friction that Simon creates in his story of two grown men who struggle to cohabit a gargantuan Manhattan apartment. While Matthau and Lemon are empirically great in this I was expecting a much funnier and less odd sort of film.

      Also, holy shit this is the most stagebound movie I’ve ever seen. There’s a sequence where the male cast crams into a car to search for the suicidal Felix that serves no other purpose but to desperately try and haul the movie out of the morass of the apartment set. While I enjoyed the film there is a grim vortex of masculine ennui in this. I was anticipating more of a Laurel & Hardy vibe.

      • ZoeZ

        It did at least give us two of my favorite quotes:

        “You leave me little notes on my pillow… ‘We’re all out of cornflakes, FU.’ Took me three hours to figure out that FU meant ‘Felix Unger.'”

        and

        “Let it be on my head.”
        “Let what be on your head?”
        “I don’t know! Ask Felix, he put it there!”

        But then you remember that what’s potentially on Oscar’s head is, you know, the responsibility of Felix’s possible suicide, and–yeah, this one’s pretty surprisingly dark.

        • PCguy

          The FU line is the clear winner in the screenplay. While I enjoyed Matthau’s full throated protestation over Felix’s leaving notes on his pillow I wish the script would have delved more into Oscar’s psyche. These are two desperately lonely best friend bachelors who live together in close quarters yet can’t stand being even remotely intimate. There’s some sort of commentary on oppositional masculinity that I just couldn’t parse here.

      • Miller

        I tried watching this a while back and the staginess of the dialogue and, uh, staging, made me turn it off after ten minutes.

      • Son of Griff

        When watching older films I’m becoming convinced that audiences were hipper to “sensitive” topics than we let on. Whether it be the numerous allusions to the “lavender” world of LAURA to the wayward sexuality of Douglas Sirk melodramas, i find a certain sophisticated acceptance that things are the way they are, and not every eccentricity demands the hushed reverence of an after school special. That the ODD COUPLE makes light of depression doesn’t really surprise me. Actually in THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE Simon takes this even further, mutating into white privileged hate letter to 70s New York .

        • To paraphrase Hooper X, everybody’s gotta think they’re Marco Fucking Polo when it comes to wokeness.

          It’s why I keep pushing for historical understanding: progressives have this inherent problem of considering their virtues as abstract and therefore ahistorical, so they have to see the past as Not Getting It. (The implication is always that we see the past and go all “how sad that they Didn’t Get It” and the future will see us and go “hey great job!”)
          Weirdly, they don’t see progress, a sequence going from the past to the present to the future that it’s a goddamn honor to take part in.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Episode 3 and 4 of Mindhunter – the show is doing well at communicating how Holden and Bill are slowly but steadily bonding – while Bill knows he has to smooth over Holden’s impatience he respects him more as an agent and Holden is seeing more of Bill’s difficult inner life. Its also done an impressive job of keeping Fincher’s style, way way more so than House of Cards.

      Anna Torv! Anna Torv is great here.

      • Defense Against The Dark Arts

        I watched episode 2 last night. It was better than episode 1 and had a great Fincher-esque montage. I still think the main character’s girlfriend is a very pretty block of wood, but I’m going to proceed to episode 3.

      • A. Square

        God I miss Anna Torv. She needs to be in more things!

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          She’s a regular here!

          • A. Square

            I was already half in the bag for this when I read that it had her and Fincher’s patronage (and half out that it was yet another serial killer procedural), but with enough intriguing things said about it, I’ll definitely check it out when it hits disc.

        • It’s a shame she didn’t win an Emmy for Fringe, Season 3. She was masterful at playing the same-ish character in different worlds.

        • clytie

          Fun fact: There are two Anna Torv’s! There’s a writer named Anna Torv who was once married Rupert Murdoch, that is the aunt of actress Anna Torv.

          • Miller

            I’m seeing double here! Four Torvs!

    • The Babadook (2014)

      Lower-budget Australian psychological horror film. I liked it a lot. Strong performances by the lead actors, a tight, logical story, genuinely disturbing moments, and child actors who aren’t awful.

      • clytie

        Have you heard that the titular character is now a gay icon?

        • This is one of my favorite things I’ve seen online.

          • Miller

            As a weird piece of internet reworking of culture, it’s amusing, but I’m annoyed by it as a larger example of aggressive misreading or dot-connecting that the Internet also fosters — instead of perennial favorite “X was dead the whole time!” it’s “X was gay the whole time!”

          • pico

            It is entirely tongue-in-cheek, though. Do you know the story about how it got started?

          • Miller

            Yeah, what scb0212 references below, but I remember looking further into it and seeing writing that did not seem very tongue-in-cheek or even sensically tongue-in-cheek and got annoyed by the whole thing. I am more than willing to cop to being overly cranky on this though.

          • It started as an algorithmic accident by Netflix cataloguing the movie as LGBTQ, so people just ran with it.

            https://www.polygon.com/2017/6/8/15762144/babadook-gay-icon

            ETA: I’m sure there’s readings that try to force a queer reading into the movie, but I find that boring and those people are boring.

      • The Ploughman

        I liked this one a lot. The kid is great and their take on parenting as its own kind of potential nightmare. I love how they incorporated lack of sleep in the process – that shot where she lays down and suddenly the Sun’s up again… gets me in the same place as fears of the Babadook itself.

      • Jake Gittes

        Essie Davis is insanely great in this one.

    • clytie

      The Wednesday and Thursday episodes of General Hospital. In “A Tale of Two Jasons” updates, one of the show’s cast members revealed the real Jason on Facebook.

      In “Valentin is the Best Character Ever” updates, an insipid girl tried to blackmail him, because threatened a murderous former spy is always a good idea, and he threatened her and it was glorious. Then the silly girl tried to use the info she had to turn his wife against him, but he had pulled a Don Draper and already explained things to her.

      https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/general-hospital/images/d/d0/VNelle.gif/revision/latest?cb=20170327073806

      Conan He had on the cast of Daddy’s Home, including Mel Gibson. Not enough Mel.

    • Miller

      Preview for A Ghost Story — Mrs. Miller’s reaction: “What is this, Millennial Ghost?” Reader, I would’ve married her all over again.

      The Big Sick — stretchy but not bloated and very funny throughout. It is amusing to watch Nanjiani be a not-terrible person after four seasons of Silicon Valley, he is wryly charming and has weapons-grade comedic eyebrows, and he and Kazan have excellent chemistry. Romano and Hunter steal the movie though, I am already planning to reuse Romano’s phenomenal giraffe dad joke and Hunter’s loving ferocity never gets too warm or too prickly. It’s a movie that has a very specific plot that is not “relatable” to a lot of viewers but fills in the details — Nanjiani’s shit bachelor pad and floor bed were, let us say, familiar, as was the frustration and suspicion with hospital care — that let viewers see themselves in the story and share it. Very well done, although this is the absolute last movie that is allowed to focus on the lives of stand-up comics for the next 50 years.

    • The Ploughman

      The Americans, S5 E11-13 Oh, you thought I was done? You thought The Americans got the best of The Ploughman? You were incorrect! My legal streaming method expired and I lacked the moral flexibility, technical know-how, and simple motivation to explore other options. But thanks to Amazon we’re back in business to see how many plotlines the show can get trimmed away like so many stray threads on knitted sweater.

      If you’re planning to finish out the season READ NO FURTHER because SOME STUFF ACTUALLY HAPPENS. The Ploughwoman and I binged through the end – three episodes is binging when you’re old and have kids – to discover the series would make the bold decision to… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

      E11: “Dyatkovo” First thought “Hey, I’m wearing the same shirt as stylish spy Phillip!” Second thought “Fuck, this show takes place thirty years ago.” Henry gets a tour of the FBI courtesy FBI former superstar Stan. Henry doesn’t have the wherewithal to sneak away any secrets (I know he’s not in on the Russian thing, it just should be the first thought on any teenager’s mind in the heart of the FBI) but he does treat a face-to-faceplate meeting with the mail robot with the awe and reverence it deserves.

      Meanwhile, Oleg dutifully continues to hone his cabbagegate case to finer and finer point. I would think this story has some aspects lost in translation – namely, why I should give a shit – except it appears Oleg is having the same trouble I am. The point, as it turns out, is the case is a pointless exercise in persecuting already suffering people, which is a point well-suited to a prominent b-story, but not one that’s feature-length when put end-to-end. This episode at least has the provocative comparison – which is worse, to live in a country whose elite intelligence organization literally cannot find a team of murderous spies across the street, or one who is completely successful at doggedly pursuing a single strand of a grocery store bribe operation?

      The episodes main thrust is the order of the killing of a traitor responsible for the deaths of Soviet soldiers during World War II, even to the point of shooting them herself. She now allegedly lives as a grandmother under a pseudonym in Boston. The Center sends P&E to do the deed on rather flimsy evidence – a photograph of her in the early 1940s to compare with her now. Phillip, who rarely matches a photograph of himself from the day before, is inclined to decline. Elizabeth, naturally, packs an extra silenced pistol. The confrontation with the potential spy is honestly the best the show has been in a long, long time and the fuel that propelled us to stay up until midnight (MIDNIGHT) watching how the consequences would play out over the next two episodes.

      E12: “The World Council of Churches” “The temptation is to put off making a hard decision. But that becomes its own decision.” – Pastor Tim, possible mouthing a cry for help from a talented mid-level writer on the show.

      Slowly! The consequences will play out the only way they can. Slowly. Instead of romping on the gas and heading for the airport, P&E dutifully report the possibility that they will be moving back to the USSR and are told – get this – to tell Claudia when they make their decision, thus closing the loop from the end of the Season 4 (3?) that would have made everything that happened in the last year relevant.

      The Jennings go about their business, but with that sad “this might be my last week of work” wistfulness as they toy with the idea of bolting. Their gazes linger on the things they will miss in America – a closet full of shoes, the dishwasher, the color yellow. “They’ll learn fast. They’re smart,” Elizabeth says about the kids and the language barrier and making herself about the most wishful thinking parent ever.

      Meanwhile, the Stan and Dennis show provides some much needed comic relief, as their contact brings by her new fiancee for a surprise meet-and-greet so he can explain that he’s not a threat to them and that they need more money. The silent acting by Noah Emmerich and Brandon Dirden is priceless as the agents watch another operation circle the drain in front of them.

      Holy cow, Misha’s back! And we’ll see wh– no, wait, I’m being told we will not see why. We just haven’t applied some spin to this plate in a while and the actor’s contract is coming up and you never know when we might need Misha again.

      The episode ends on a well-done cliff-hanger, something else we haven’t seen in awhile, which takes us full-steam into…

      E13: “The Soviet Decision” Note the title? The decision? It’s deciding time. That means things will happen. Phillip says goodbye to Kimmie who will have to find another creep too old for her. Elizabeth, much less kindly due what a jackass he’s turned out to be, says goodbye and get out of the business to Tuan. Paige says goodbye to Pastor Tim who is being dispatched (safely) to Buenos Aires. Henry says goodbye to a promising future as Phillip tells him he’s not going to boarding school after all.

      With one final spin to the “Stan’s girlfriend – so good for him she’s gotta be a spy” plate, we finally come to the point where the Jennings… decide to stay and continue.

      So there. We’ve been taken on a dramatic journey back to the status quo. It’s a Simpsons episode stretched out, like those recordings of Beethoven’s 9th played over the course of 24 hours, for two years.

      Shor woulda been interesting to see if Henry and Paige had the linguistic potential Elizabeth saw in them! Mighta been cool to see if Oleg and Martha – oh, by the way Martha’s lonely so the Soviets are giving her a kid I guess? which is kinda like curing thirst with a firehose? – could get the gang back together. Coulda been fun to see if the Center would have panicked with two agents leaving the field and made things more difficult.

      Ah, well. Maybe next year.

      • Question: at what point should I come into season five to see things actually happen? I’m guessing much of the season followed the story of The Jennings Do Bad Things and Feel Bad About It, Also Paige Knows They’re Spies, Did We Mention That? When does it get interesting? (You know, The Americans, if the first episode this season was a time jump that would have qualified as interesting too.)

        • The Ploughman

          Honestly, this trio right here is the only “essentials,” and I put essentials in quotes because it’s entirely possible you could start at the beginning of season 6 and catch on right away. This is still signature Americans treading water, but it’s primo water treading, with one of the show’s best sequences in episode 11 and some decent moments through the next two. I was surprised (why?) they still left as many plots not just unresolved but unmoved (e.g. – anything to do with Stan) and had hope they would indicate a focus for what I understand to be the final season. But at least I wasn’t bored by these episodes even though they never get out of the two stories you mention, and I’d expect them to inform where the family is at the beginning of next season, although there doesn’t seem to be a connection between stories being informed by events and action being motivated by them.

          • Thanks! And wow, that last line is the exactly problem with prestige television: it’s all about the informing-of-stories (by cinematography or symbolism or external knowledge or music choices or whatever) so viewers can contemplate about, rather than the doing-of-actions that viewers empathize with.

          • The Ploughman

            In (I think) the last episode, there’s a montage that cuts between each of the Jennings’ activities (except Henry, because the show has made it clear that it wishes Henry had never been born) set to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” It’s the perfect cue for a big moment for one or more characters at a crossroads. The big moment that comes out of it: the decision not to change a damn thing.

          • Watching them right now. GODDAMMIT YOU ASSHOLES IF YOU’D DONE THIS TWO YEARS AGO YOU’D HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE GREATEST TV SERIES EVER WHY DOES EVERYONE ACT LIKE THE SHIELD OR THE FUCKING POETICS FOR THAT MATTER NEVER HAPPENED. LEARN FROM THAT SHIT, PEOPLE

          • The Ploughman

            That confrontation with the war criminal-turned-grandmama is intense stuff. But it could have been the result of any number of plots from last 2-3 seasons. It’s like sitting at the chef’s table and trying his new deviled egg recipe – but being fed every practice egg. By the time the perfected one comes out, it’s kind tough to appreciate when you’ve been fed a dozen inferior versions.

    • A. Square

      It’s my favorite sitting-at-the-screen-typing time of year: it’s the twenty-third annual IF Comp! IF Comp ’17 has seen the most entries ever, continuing from last year’s absolute explosion of participation and quality. After six weeks I still haven’t played through all seventy-nine games; I’d say so far it’s a more traditional crop (lots of classic puzzlefests and genre pieces) than last year’s wide-ranging experimentation and new perspectives, but I’ve had a wonderful time nevertheless. Here are some of my favorites so far.

      Absence of Law – You’re trying to help a dead scientist resurrect himself, but must use a GladOSian unreliable narrator to remotely navigate a kooky mad science facility. A hypertext game that initially seems like it’s recreating a classic parser game in html, but instead is using the constraints of both genre and UI in a lot of clever ways. Full of imagination, made me laugh out loud several times, and some really trollish, hilarious puzzles.

      10pm – Just a single conversation – but one where half of it uses a homebrew sign language. Rather than typing or clicking on words or menus, you drag symbols into a speech balloon to craft words and phrases. Smartly crafted all around, with a UI that I really want to see in other games.

      The Owl Consults – An old school puzzler, but with the neat conceit that you’re a supervillain consultant, ordering around two do-badders who happen to be infiltrating a third villain’s lair at the same time. You have to make sure none of the three ever meet, while attempting to accomplish multiple goals. The writing is pulpy and funny, handling the different voices and constraints very enjoyably, and some really fun puzzles.

      MIkayla’s Phone – The idea of having a game take place entirely within the conceit of you, the player, going through someone else’s phone is not exactly new, but this is the best iteration I’ve seen yet – well-crafted, sneakily emotional, and with the illicit charge that comes from faffing with someone else’s phone (having discovered several lost phones, I know this feeling well).

      Will Not Let Me Go: One of the things that’s interesting about Twine games, which use hyperlinks rather than a text parser, is how it breaks up narratives into pages, leading to multiple digressions. This game uses that, along with several other clever tricks, to show the POV of someone struggling wih Alzheimer’s, over time. The writing is both warm and harsh, and strongly observed, and there’s a passage near the end that would make utterly no sense whatsoever out of context but utterly floored me. My favorite of the Comp so far.

      For the past several years, I’ve been so invigorated by the rapidly growing participation and ambition of the IF scene, that was so small and insular when I got into it fifteen years ago. The emergence of mobile and a text-based culture has really given things a shot in the arm, as well as the Twine game language massively increasing accessibility to the genre (and fascinatingly, being adopted by the trans gaming scene as a way of expressing their narratives). Like every year, I think there’s still a diamond or two I’ll discover in the last few days of the judging period (ends in five days!). Like very, very few things in this world, the IF Comp is as good or better than its ever been, and I love it. If anyone is intrigued, here’s the list of games:
      https://ifcomp.org/ballot

    • pico

      Re-watch of Get Out. Verdict: still owns.

      Also, I’m gonna be really disappointed when the best score of the year doesn’t get recognized for anything, but it is, so far, the best score of the year.

      • The Narrator

        Have you seen Good Time? Because that’s my number one score this year with a bullet (although I don’t actually remember Get Out‘s score outside of the opening).

        • Jake Gittes

          Is it just me or every year has been weaker than the one before it when it comes to film scores recently. I still haven’t seen Good Time and Get Out, and am hyped for both in this regard and in general, but in everything I have seen this year I’ve heard nothing remotely memorable. Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049‘s scores do their job in the movies but I don’t really care for them on their own, and other than that… War for the Planet of the Apes had a couple of good cues, I guess? It feels dire.

          • The Narrator

            Apparently Wonderstruck has a fantastic Carter Burwell score, and Jon Brion’s score for Lady Bird is supposed to be great, but yeah, this is a really weak year in that field.

          • Jake Gittes

            Oh right, I forgot about Burwell. And I’m sure Williams and Desplat won’t let us down. Still doesn’t improve the overall landscape that much. A few movies that potentially had room for great scores – The Lost City of Z, mother!, Call Me by Your Name – either used little to no music or only pre-existing stuff.

          • I honestly want to podcast about some good contemporary film scores but Interstellar was the last one that moved me in any way.

          • Babalugats

            Not a fan of Refn & Martinez?

          • I like them but wouldn’t go so far as “fan”; I feel like deJarnatt and Tangerine Dream did that kind of thing better in Miracle Mile. Probably when I cover Martinez it will be for Traffic.

          • Check out the score for The Knick – it’s great, throbbing & pulsing, and a wonderfully sideways choice for a medical drama set in 1901.

          • The Knick was my second choice for Martinez (and Solaris was the third); Traffic gets the edge simply ‘cuz I like the music more.

          • pico

            See, and I partially blame Hans Zimmer for the decline in film scores recently. It’s not his fault that his style has taken over the industry – good for him! – but… it’s taken over the industry. (I don’t even remember the score for Interstellar.)

          • I’ve thought of doing The Thin Red Line, which I love, but really, you’ve done one Zimmer, you’ve done them all. (Also I talked about it in Soundtracking #2, which was fun.)

          • pico

            Actually, I think I’m more shocked that Mica Levi must not have moved you. Under the Skin is my favorite score of the 21st century, so far.

          • Oh yeah, still gotta see that.

          • Babalugats

            IT’S THE BEST MOVIE OF THE DECADE!!! Not to um, overhype it or anything, but I definitely recommend it.

            And yeah the score, and really the entire sound design, is a revelation. Maybe the only movie that has not only burned images into my brain, but sounds too. Like that scene, which I can still hear perfectly when I close my eyes. Or the scene where the guy.. and you can hear the popping…

            When you watch it, watch it LOUD.

          • See, that last line is all you needed to say 😄

          • pico

            (I was a bit disappointed with the movie’s second half for being a bit more… conventional? But the first half? Easily the best and most unnerving SF film I’ve ever seen.)

          • Babalugats

            I love the way the film switches in the middle. The first half is examining the alienness of Johansson. Her strange rituals, her “birth”, the black pool, the motorcycle men, but mostly her complete lack of human compassion. We keep searching her face for some sign of an inner life, some humanity, but we’re completely blocked off. And then the second half lets us into her perspective, and the alienness shifts to our world. It’s incredible how effective this part is. The nauseating way that the cake is shot. The indecipherable comedy program. And finally the cruelty and sociopathy of the man at the end.

            I found the ending incredibly powerful. The idea that if you ever let somebody else see what you really are, they’d kill you. My read of the film is that it’s about loneliness, in the existential sense. About looking at the people around you and not being sure that they have thoughts, and emotions, and a conscious the way you do. About the danger that we expose ourselves to trying to make connections that are mostly hollow and self delusional. About the cruelty and indifference of nature. About our ultimate helplessness in the face of that cruelty. The second half is where those themes really took root for me. Where it stopped being a (very good) monster movie, and started being something deeper. Where it really started getting, under my skin.

          • A. Square

            Yeah, this. Already there’s a dearth of scores that attempt to describe a psychology over dramatics; this is a score that communicates a psychology that isn’t even remotely human.

          • Actually, that reminds me that Reznor and Ross have done some good scoring in that direction, with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as the standout. It was the best part of a movie that had a lot of great stuff, some absolute crap, and never came together.

          • A. Square

            Have you seen Burns & Novick’s The Vietnam War? I have a lot of problems with Reznor’s score for that, though I think B&N’s style is as much to blame, as they are a lot more successful using period music – case in point, I never ever ever thought I’d EVER cry hearing CSNY’s “Ohio”, but I did.

          • Wow, that is. . .not a pairing I would have imagined outside the context of random number generators or jokes.

          • A. Square

            Reznor adds a harsh, anachronistic jangle to the series that attempts to accentuate and comment on the chaos and change of the times, but just largely serves to take the viewer outside of history. Burns & Novick are at their best when they laser focus on the inside view (and at their worst when they rely on historical commentary), which is at cross purposes with this particular collaboration.

          • Martinez’ ahistorical score makes sense for The Knick, which is in some ways about the birth of modernity at the end of the Victorian era (see also: Against the Day) but like you said, Burns/Novick has always been about returning history to the past, to the decisions made in the actual context of the time.

          • I’m always amused that the man who wrote, “I wanna fuck you like an animal/I wanna feel you from the inside” has a well-deserved Oscar for his music.

          • Things I did not think when I first heard Pretty Hate Machine: 1) “hey, this kid is gonna win an Oscar one day!” 2) “you know, Johnny Cash should cover this guy’s songs as the final masterpiece of his career,” and 3) “yeah, he’ll be alive thirty years from now.”

          • The Narrator

            Bruh, get thee to 20th Century Women. For many reasons but this one in particular.

          • Jake Gittes

            Scott Walker wrote a magnificently dark, apocalyptic score for The Childhood of a Leader, which is a pretty uninspired movie on the whole but its first and last 10 minutes are pretty much entirely driven by music and they’re thrilling. It’s only his second film score after Leos Carax’s Pola X, where it’s also great and much more prevalent.

            There have been a few other scores in the past couple of years I come back to regularly (Fury Road, Carol, The Witch, the overture in The Hateful Eight) but I have to agree that Under the Skin probably remains the last truly revelatory work.

        • pico

          I have not. Is it the music from the trailer? If so, I’m on board.

          Also we have a Jonny Greenwood score coming down the pipeline, but he’s not exactly popular with the awards folks.

      • A. Square

        I do hope that it at least gets an editing nod. The pacing of that film is utterly perfect.

    • jroberts548

      Just tv the past couple days
      Black-ish. I’m glad they finally addressed that Diane is 3 feet taller than Jack now, and can carry her twin around in her pocket like a cartoon mouse. The show should take every opportunity has to contrast Dre’s mother with Bow’s mother.

      Stranger Things, up to episode 4. This show really drags now.

      Ghosted. This show is not living up to its potential.

      Bob’s Burgers, Still great.

  • Conor Malcolm Crockford

    This is also why I like Rocknrolla, which is very stupid and scummy and also weird and idiosyncratic. Similarly Ritchie for the one sex scene does something that is NOT necessary but is very funny and communicates as much as possible in less than 30 seconds just with editing.

    • Ritchie has a lot of technique and ambition but it’s never once felt to me like he wanted to do anything with it except ambitiously show us his technique. When his films have landed for me, it’s usually because of some other factor, like the performances (RDJ and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes, Gerard Butler in Rocknrolla). We’ve talked here about potentially great directors who have ideas but not the talent to apply them; Ritchie is the opposite, someone with talent but no idea what to do with it.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        That kind of thing is what makes me think he’s a good fit for franchise films, where he just has to get us in and out in two hours with a bunch of cool people.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          That worked with Sherlock Holmes, but not something like King Arthur (which sucks as I was looking forward to it til the negative reviews poured in).

          • Drunk Napoleon

            It also mostly worked with Man From UNCLE!

          • Defense Against The Dark Arts

            I’ve should see that one. I’ve heard good things. I’m not really into the International Super Spy genre though, which is why I’ve been dragging my feet.

          • Son of Griff

            When will Amazon just adapt Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Trilogy into a miniseries and end the misery of terrible King Arthur reboots.

        • I was thinking that too–it would give him the discipline of working on something outside himself. (I’ve heard good things about The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) Supposedly his most personal work is Revolver, and I’ve never made it past the half-hour mark. Bored me silly, that did.

          • Revolver is his attempts to explore the Kabbalah. go figure.

            Man from Uncle could basically be Henry Cavill’s audition as the next Roger-Moore-style Bond. Tons of fun, lighthearted spy romp. Shame he’s saddled with Superman.

          • Son of Griff

            Madonna is kind of the femme fatale for the creative side of Guy Richie’s noir biopic.

          • Jake Gittes

            Man from UNCLE is uneven but when it works it’s a lot of fun, and it’s got enjoyable performances to spare. And, incidentally, a terrific score by Daniel Pemberton who came out of nowhere with it and could become a great old-fashioned craftsman for studio films, if only those films allowed him to show what he’s got.

        • Huh, he’s doing the live action Aladdin for Disney next (this is probably common knowledge but I only just found out), which is an… interesting fit.

        • Babalugats

          I think he could make a great Batman & Robin movie. I mean his Sherlock Holmes was basically that, but I’d like to see it pushed even further from reality. A big two fisted adventure movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously but still cares about the action.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        This is probably true. He also doesn’t make movies that are really about anything, which is fine because when they’re good they have a trash-pop sheen to them unlike any other, but they’re firmly good, not great.

  • Defense Against The Dark Arts

    I was very excited going into Snatch, I was in my late teens at the time and I had never seen anything like it. My initial excitement peaked and finally climaxed a couple of minutes in. I was disappointed, but I knew I wanted to see it again.

  • A. Square

    I have a habit of watching language/accent performative videos in idle moments, and happened to catch a few examining Irish accents coming out of Hollywood movies; while rarely does anyone get a grade above “meh, it’s okay”, the one performance that makes all dialect coaches and actual Irish people go “wow, that’s bang on” is Brad Pitt’s Traveller accent. Which surprised me, as it seemed intensely cringey as I watched it (despite my enjoying his scenes more than any others in the movie).

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      By all accounts its superb, it just seems goofy to our ears.

    • clytie

      Even thought the movie’s not too great, my Irish relatives say his accent in The Devil’s Own is perfect as well.

      • Miller

        Ha, was just wondering about that one.

  • BurgundySuit

    Year of the Month Update!
    Everybody who wants to get a head start for December, we’ll be covering 1964, which means you can write about any of this stuff!
    https://letterboxd.com/films/year/1964/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_in_music
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_in_literature

    And here’s what you can sign up for this month:
    Potential music here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1978_in_music
    Movies here: https://letterboxd.com/films/year/1978/
    And books here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1978_in_literature

    And who’s signed up already:

    NO DATE: Jake Gittes: The Deer Hunter
    NO DATE: Mr. Apollo: All You Need Is Cash
    NO DATE: Home Run Colchez – Van Halen

    November 10th: GIllianren: Tribute to Mary Blair
    November 12th: Jacob Thomas Klemmer: Autumn Sonata
    November 13th: BurgundySuit: Dawn of the Dead
    November 13th: Pico79: Martin
    November 14th: John Bruni: John Prine’s Bruised Orange
    November 15th: Balthazar Bee: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
    November 16th : Conor Malcolm Crockford: Coming Home
    November 17th: Belated Comebacker: Piranha
    November 20th: Seth Carlson: The Swarm
    November 21st: The Ploughman: Gates of Heaven
    November 22nd: Alex Christian Lovendahl: I Wanna Hold Your Hand
    November 23rd: Jacob Thomas Klemmer: The Star Wars Holiday Special
    November 25th: Low Res Triangle: Fury
    November 26th: Beauty and the Beast
    November 29th: Bhammer100: The Stand

    • pico

      I’d love to do Kwaidan for ’64. Have read the book, too, so I can do a bit of a comparison thingy. No date yet, though.

      btw I do have that second installment later this month, I think we said November 28th, for Life a User’s Manual.

    • Babalugats

      1964, now that’s a year with some movies!

      How does something comparing Fail Safe and Dr Strangelove sound?

      • BurgundySuit

        Sounds awesome! Date?

        • Babalugats

          I’ll try to get it in before we have an actual nuclear war. Probably early in the month, would be best.

          • pico

            I laughed out loud.

          • BurgundySuit

            How about the 4th?

          • Babalugats

            No promises. Never any promises.
            But yeah, the 4th should be doable.

    • Drunk Napoleon

      I’ll do A Fistful Of Dollars for the 5th.

    • Son of Griff

      I’d like to do MARNIE on December 4th.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Band of Outsiders for December 17th please.