• Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      Community, Season One, Episode Fifteen, “Romantic Expressionism”
      “Troy, I want you to clear your head.”
      “Done.”

      “Hey guys! Thanks for eating all the macaroni!”
      “Shut up, Leonard! No one even knows what you’re talking about! … I did eat all the macaroni. It’s messed up that he knows.”

      This episode kicks off with Annie expressing an interest in Vaughn. Britta says she’s totally cool with it, but Jeff, who has now fully accepted his role as Study Group Dad, urges her to accept her role as Study Group Mum, which she appears to jump into feet-first. Together, they scheme to play off Troy and Annie’s thing, which explodes in their faces as hurt feelings and jealousy go flying everywhere. It culminates in one of my favourite Community setpieces: everyone looking at each other as a sexual being.

      (My favourite is Abed, who is clearly DTF with anyone. I always wished they’d explored that further)

      What we really have is the group collectively redefining a new aspect of themselves – how comfortable they are banging each other. It never occurred to me until this rewatch how much this show is about how change comes from redefinition. We do dumb things, and we see them blow up in our face, and we decide instead of doing dumb things, we do smart things. For all the show’s bleakness, this is where its positivity comes from – we can grow, and we can learn.

      There’s also one of my favourite Pierce plots, which was apparently inspired by real life. The gang watches a movie to make fun of it, Pierce feels left out, so he hires writers. His end rant touches on a common idea that making fun of movies while you watch them is a sign of smug superiority, something I have never, ever bought.

      Neon Genesis Evangelion, Episode Fifteen, “Those women longed for the touch of others’ lips, and thus invited their kisses.”
      There’s no Angel attack this time, just an ordinary day in the lives of NERV, but it’s one of my absolute favourite episodes of the show for delving into Misato’s character, with a stopover in Shinji’s relationships with Asuka and Rei.

      Misato, Ritsuko, and Kaji all have to attend the wedding of a friend of theirs, and in fact it’s the latest in a long line of weddings – as Misato grumpily observes, everyone’s in a rush to get married before they turn thirty. At the same time, it’s the anniversary of the death of Shinji’s mother, and he and Gendo will be alone together for the first time in the series. Shinji turns to Rei for help, asking her what he should talk about; not only does she not know, she doesn’t know why he’d ask. His first scene of this episode was watching her clean, and she asks if he was watching her to ask that; he tells her the way she cleaned reminded him of a mother, and he tries to compliment her my saying she’d make a great mother someday, which embarrasses her. This scene advances their relationship and will be vitally important. Misato’s advice for Shinji about his dad is to keep moving forward, which he doesn’t understand.

      At the grave, Shinji and Gendo have an actual conversation. Shinji contemplates his mother, and Gendo is philosophical, observing that we have to bury memories to live our everyday lives, and he returns to Yui’s grave to remind himself of her. Shinji asks if he really did throw everything out: “Everything is kept in my heart. I’m satisfied with that.” When Gendo has to go, Shinji says he was glad they talked.

      When he gets home, Shinji plays the cello, and is surprised when Asuka finds him. He downplays both his skill and his reasons for playing – I can’t find the name of it but I’m told the piece he’s playing is quite difficult, and he plays because “nobody told [him] to stop”.

      At the wedding, Ritsuko and Kaji end up alone, and they go from discussing Misato’s increasing alcoholism to reminiscing. Kaji talks about the past like they were so much younger and more innocent, “children playing house”; Ritsuko tells him he has more of a shot with her than he realises. When Misato gets back with them, Ritsuko decides to leave them alone. This whole scene is one of the reasons I like this show so much – with gossip, philosophy, and advice, it captures casual conversation between people who like each other so much better than anything else I’ve ever seen, and it’s between characters I like and find interesting.

      Misato gets so drunk that she ends up throwing up in an alley, and Kaji walks her home. I liked that previous scene, but this is the scene of the episode, in which Misato begins drunkenly rambling a confession to Kaji – that she lied to him about there being someone else, that she realised one day how much Kaji reminded her of her father, that she left him because she was afraid she was repeating the same mistakes, that she joined NERV to run away from everything (only to learn her father was in NERV, completing a cycle), and that deep down she feels as worthless and no better than Shinji.

      At first, Kaji lets her talk, then he tries to stop her, then he tries to tell her she made her own choices, and finally he interrupts her by kissing her. “Man kisses woman to shut her up” is something that’s justifiably criticised a lot, but I think it works here, because there’s a history between these two; Kaji knows her well enough to know what she wants and needs, which is proof of a connection to someone. This is a case of a literary story getting a strong emotion out of me, not in spite of but because of the distance between me and the character.

      As I said, I always admired Misato, but now that I’m closer to her in age and closer to who she is as a person, I find her more #relatable. She makes scary, emotionally difficult decisions every day, and she tries to stick by them; inside, she’s plagued by doubt and insecurity, but she still tries to be the good person, and I can admire her for trying even if she doesn’t always hit it. A few episodes ago, Fuyutski said “I prefer real humans, no matter how stained with sin,” and that’s how I think of Misato.

      This is bounced off with the more fucked up teenage sexual politics, when Asuka decides to kiss Shinji to kill time. Geeky stories tend to have fucked up, or at least awkward sexual politics; NGE leans into it the way The Shield leans into ownage, and the kiss is simultaneously cute and disturbing all at once. Asuka holds Shinji’s nose closed, and kisses him for so long he nearly passes out; when she’s finished, she gargles in disgust, making it awkward and painful for all concerned. Kaji brings a passed-out Misato home around then, advises Shinji to take care of her, and brushes off Asuka’s attention, which seriously hurts her feelings.

      We then get something that puts all of the fucked-up-ness of the past twenty minutes to shame: Rei is floating nude in a tube, Gendo is watching her, and they smile at each other.

      It ends with Misato catching Kaji spying on NERV for the Japanese government, so he decides to show her what Gendo and Ritsuko have been hiding from her: a giant Angel-like being called Adam. It’s nailed to a cross, like Jesus, which means absolutely nothing – the creators threw in Christian mythology the same way Western idiots will get Japanese tattoos, because they thought it was cool. A lot of people seem to resent that, but I like the story the symbols are attached to too much to care.

      Once again, the revelation of information changes the relationships – this time, Misato and Kaji’s relationship is a little different to what it was before. Maybe that’s the difference between something lifelike, and something alive – living things grow, decay, and transform; things that are not alive are static. Drama inherently creates the feeling of life; literature has to work for it.

      Worldbuilding details: More mention of the Human Instrumentality Project. Kaji is investigating the Marduke Institute – it’s supposed to exist to select Eva pilots, but something doesn’t add up.

      Steven Universe, Episode Fourteen, “Lars And The Cool Kids”
      Alright, I’m far enough into the show that I can stop and try to put the pieces together. The animation is over-the-top in expression – that’s easy to understand, it’s the animation equivalent to Whedon or Tarantino dialogue, something that sacrifices realism for clarity and laughs. Quite a bit of the stories are Steven doing something, and the Gems reluctantly going along with it – there hasn’t been a single case of one of them putting their foot down and saying “No, Steven”. There has been a slow drip-drip-drip of exposition, from the age of the Gems to Steven’s mother – that’s also easy to understand, and in fact my criticism is that the accumulation of detail is too slow and individual episodes are too static.

      I can see it’s partly that I’m just not a fandom guy. Fandoms use stories as jumping off points for other stories – at its most basic and popular, “I will have this character fuck that character”. From this perspective, a character only needs one dimension, because you’re gonna come in and fill the rest of it in yourself anyway – it doesn’t matter that 95% of Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet’s actions are “Steven no”, “Steven yes”, and “Steven yes but with reservations” respectively – in fact, the simpler the better, because then it’s easier to riff on a theme you’re presented with without breaking the original story; it’s very easy to write Don out-of-character, but Pearl is a breeze.

      And of course, the literary structure of the plotting is comforting and unchallenging, no negative connotations intended – I get the same pleasure out of Mad Men, season six notwithstanding. I admit to finding something slightly disturbing in the way relationships neither grow nor decay though; Petey made up with his dad, and Steven keeps getting things he wants (from going on adventures to a lion), but other than that nothing changes.

      I don’t care for this and I share none of these values, but I at least see the value now. Which is a point undermined when I actually like the episode for a change.

      It opens with the Gems coming across a magic moss, and we learn Steven’s mother protected the moss and saw the beauty in everything, including the gross moss. The Gem’s short-term solution to the moss is to put police tape around it; Steven goes to get lunch at the pizza place, and runs into Lars, who is trying to act cool to impress the Cool Kids. Steven, being Steven, goes to say hi to them directly, which gets him and Lars pulled into hanging out with them.

      The dynamic is pretty predictable – Lars tries his hardest to fit in, Steven naturally fits in because he’s being himself – but it lifted by the utter strangeness of the Cool Kids. Frankly, the hangout vibe of the show finally clicked for me, because pretty much everything they said and did was offbeat enough to keep me intrigued by them. They go to hang out at the moss thing, and to Steven’s horror they simply plow through the police tape; this gets the Cool Kids caught in the moss.

      When Steven explains the situation, Lars loses his temper at Steven ruining his life; when he finishes by yelling about Steven’s “weird Mom”, this sets off Steven’s temper, and he yells about not getting to know his own mother, or about the way she saw the beauty in everything, “even jerks like you!”. They decide to just drag the moss-encrusted bodies of the Cool Kids up to the hill, and they work together to drive a stick-shift to where the moss is supposed to go. They find themselves covered in moss, and die.

      Except actually the moss blooms, creating flowers and floating cool seed things, and Steven, Lars, and the Cool Kids are impressed by the beauty (Sour Cream begins to “rave” to it all). When they ask how this happened, Lars goes to say this was because of Steven, but Steven interrupts and says it was because Lars drove them, and the Cool Kids decide they like Lars. Steven goes to high-five Lars, and Lars reprises something he did at the start of the episode, signifying increased closeness. We actually had some god damned meaningful change in the episode, and I can’t help but notice it was achieved with the guy everyone in the fandom hates.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        Also, the macaroni quote is my #1 Community quote. It starts as a typical one-two-three finish of another joke, then gets a typical escalation (“I did eat the macaroni”), then gets a final escalation that pushes it into impossible absurdity and reduces me to tears of laughter (what disturbing thing happened to make it “messed up”?!?!?!).

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          All the Shut Up Leonard jokes are gold. “Shut up Leonard, those teenage girls are only hanging out with you ironically!”

          • Drunk Napoleon

            I got far enough into season five to see what I assume was the last “Shut up Leonard!” joke, where it’s different now that he’s a teacher. Solid gold way to finish that.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Troy clearly thinking “Maybe” when he thinks about sleeping with Shirley is great. Like Buffy, Community uses a lot of sexual tension and pairings because it’s inherent to the set up (college, groups of people, etc) but it’s not as obsessive about it because Community is a sitcom and knows it.

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        One element of that Community episode that never quite worked for me, re: Jeff and Britta’s paternalism toward Annie: It’s easy to explain through jealousy, the direction the episode does take, but there’s another, totally valid, reason why they would be wary of letting their young, innocent friend date a guy like Vaughn: If you break up with him or upset him in some way, he will write a terrible, nasty song about it and sing it to the entire school! Forget “I don’t like it when boys stop kissing me and start kissing my friends”; how about “If you break up with him, he’s going to turn into a total psycho”?

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          (This does remind me, though, of one of my favorite moments of “Home Economics”– which is one of my favorite episodes– of Pierce’s desire to fit in leading to, not the wounded ego we’d typically expect to see from him after Vaughn’s diss, but an acceptance and even embrace of it: “I’m Pierce! Yeah, the song is about me!”)

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          To be fair it’s a catchy song, I have it in my head right now.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            I always end up singing the Pierce one. Pierce, Pierce, Pierce, Pierce you’re a B…

      • ZoeZ

        As your designated correspondent in the field, I agree with this assessment of Steven Universe‘s appeal to its primary (adult, at least) audience. Fandom also has a troubled relationship with plots where story happens; the ideal fandom show is one where there is a setting in which stories (with large stakes but small consequences) happen, something full of customizable blueprints rather than narrative or primacy. (I’m vastly oversimplifying, but eh.)

        • Drunk Napoleon

          I did find myself thinking after I wrote this that The Shield, with its plot-heavy narrative, had a prime fandom-friendly approach.
          – The simple characterisation makes writing fanfiction easier.
          – The deliberate holes in the story create fanfic fodder. How did Vic and Shane meet? Why is Aceveda obsessed with becoming mayor? What does Dutch do on his day off?
          – The interconnected relationships that make the show’s system up create great shipping fodder. A Dutch/Vic hatefuck thing! An Aceveda/Vic hatefuck thing (which could go really, uh, tasteless)! Vic/Shane! Etc etc.

          • ZoeZ

            A Dutch/Vic hatefuck thing! An Aceveda/Vic hatefuck thing (which could go really, uh, tasteless)! Vic/Shane!

            Everybody Fucks Vic, the sequel.

    • Belated Comebacker

      Predator A glorious 80s action film, one that I might say is up there with “Top Gun,” in that it works perfectly as a parody of itself (in our somewhat more…enlightened age). Unlike “Alien,” it’s impossible for me to take any of this seriously. It’s a straight-up B-movie for me, with plenty of muscle mass to go around. I mean, sure, you could extrapolate how it seems to comment on how these macho commandos don’t stand much of a chance against the Predator’s superior weaponry, thus mirroring their own technological prowess against the guerrillas earlier in the film, but you don’t necessarily need to go down that well. All in all, a fun end to my mini-Schwarzenegger watch-a-thon.

      Heat: Saw this months ago, but figured I’d post it here. A very fun film, especially with the technical prowess during the first heist sequence. Funny how quickly things go wrong for them once they fail to kill the one loose end. Al Pacino is great here (of course), avoiding going too loud, except for when the character needs to. De Niro is also great, and we can see his loneliness creeping up on him, hanging out with the rest of his crew at the swanky restaurant. And yes, that coffee scene still holds up, ladies and gentlemen.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        What I find interesting about Predator is how it sits in this extremely small window just before Die Hard redefined the action genre so that action protagonists were weak and fragile and earned their victory (of course, John McTiernan directed both Predator and Die Hard). Predator, Robocop, Terminator to some extent; these films felt like they pushed the invincible action hero as hard as they could until it was as silly as possible, just before the genre shifted.

        • Belated Comebacker

          Agreed, and you make a good point with McTiernan as the man who would help to usher in the more “vulnerable” action hero of the 80s (something that I think actually came about a few years early, with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” opening in 1981, opening six years before “Predator.” Indy is many things, but invulnerable ain’t one of them).

          In short, the 80s action film scape is a land of contrasts (and McTiernan deserves to be up there with Spielberg and Cameron when it comes to shooting coherent action scenes that just. simply. MOVE.

          • Miller

            There is no bigger loss of fastball than McTiernan of Predator becoming McTiernan of Rollerball, although to be fair jail is not conducive to maintaining one’s skills.

          • Son of Griff

            Prison was probably the product of a creative downswing rather than its causeMEDICINE MAN was where McTiernan’s control of tone, and choice of material, began to get dodgy.

        • The action genre got seriously bent out of shape in the 1980s by Schwarzenegger. Prior to that, most action heroes were in some way vulnerable (think The Train or Star Wars) ‘cuz otherwise, what kind of stakes are there? Then you had Ahnold (and to a lesser extent Stallone) who were simply invulnerable slabs of destruction killing everything in their path–and except for The Terminator, righteously so. (America, fuck yeah.) Predator came about in part simply out of the need to put Ahnold up against something he might not be able to beat. McTiernan used that well in Die Hard, which is great in part because it brings back the pre-1980 concept of an action hero.

      • Belated Comebacker

        By the way: Catching a flight soon, so apologies if my responses are even…more belated than normal!

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        One of my favorite DeNiro performances, and I love how he plays him like a samurai: contained, ideological, never soft.

        • DJ JD

          There’s a ton about Pacino and De Niro’s performances in that movie that work like gangbusters for me. Pacino and De Niro bounce off of each other in so many ways throughout the entire movie for only sharing the one scene together that it’s almost like a puzzle box. I still remember the sense of recognition I got when I read Pacino describe his character as a barely-together cocaine addict; he really infused it into that role. (I’m less clear on the part cocaine played in the lives of characters he played after this movie, however.)

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I love his delivery of “No, I do not.” when McCauley asks if he seems like the kind of dumbass holding up liquor stores. Hanna is warning him in part because he respects that he’s good at what he does.

          • For all of his forceful, over-the-top moments everyone loves to bring up (as do I, and don’t get me wrong – they’re exactly right in context), the thing Pacino brings to Hanna that really stays with me is his bone-deep, unexorcizable weariness.

          • You can really see that in the scene with his informant–when he yells GIMME EVERYTHING YOU GOT! his eyes aren’t into it at all. He’s done this kind of thing a thousand times.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Unlike some of his other HOO-AHHHHH material its clearly a performance in those scenes (although Azaria’s total astonishment at “HUGE ASS” is not).

          • silverwheel

            That’s why his little moment when he almost says “big” but then abruptly switches to “great” [ass] works so well – Hanna’s not going anywhere near full tilt with this gambit and he has to force himself to dial up the energy.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        Something that drives me up the wall every single time is how many people say “That coffee shop scene in Heat sucked because they were clearly talking to stand-ins”. First of all, they clearly weren’t, because both are always in the same shot, and you can clearly see it’s the same actors. Secondly, the scene was shot with two cameras running at once, and both sides are taken from the same take. Thirdly, a scene like this, with actors of this caliber, you get out of the god-damned way and let them hold the scene!

        • Miller

          That stand-in conspiracy is so dumb. And everyone knows the real undercurrent to that scene is that Hanna has been dead the whole time.

          • Are people actually dumb enough to think Hanna’s dead that whole time? I thought it was obvious he’s real and McCauley isn’t – he’s just the Durden-esque projection of Hanna. Duh.

    • Waxwork – exactly my kind of 80s horror nonsense, with a great cast (Zach Galligan, Dana Ashbrook, David Warner, John Rhys Davies seemingly going for the Oscar in a brief role as a werewolf), an absurd premise that is far stranger than the House of Wax-knockoff I expected, and a surprising amount of head-crushings. Loads of fun. I was excited to learn that there’s a sequel that offers Bruce Campbell, Martin Kemp and Marina Sirtis! Weird casts forever!

      Peggy Sue Got Married – I threw this onto my rental list last week after watching Somewhere in Time and making a “Time Travel Romance” list on Letterboxd, but really I should have seen this long ago because it includes some absolutely next-level Nic Cage ACTING, including a bizarre voice (that Francis Ford Coppola and the producers hated, according to IMDB trivia, until he convinced them somehow). It’s also just a charmingly odd film, and nearly a very good one until it loses the plot a bit in the last act. I still liked it a lot though.

      The Great Silence – another one I’ve been meaning to see for a while – brutally bleak Spaghetti Western action with a typically powerful Klaus Kinski villain, and SO much snow. I can’t think of many snowier movies! Or angrier ones, for that matter. Very much deserving of its reputation as one of the great Italian Westerns.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        I was drawn to The Great Silence for a) its influence on Django Unchained and to an extent The Hateful Eight and b) the absolutely nihilistic themes to it.

        For the former, once again I found the idea that Tarantino ‘just rips off old movies’ absurd, because he always either embellishes, expands, or outright reverses the meaning of the original use of the idea. For the latter, it’s one of the few times I’ve found something with a bleak reputation actually lives up to it.

        • Belated Comebacker

          Does Tarantino work for you as a gateway to older, lesser known films? Because, funny enough, that’s how Soderbergh worked for me. I would’ve have never checked out, say “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” or “Don’t Look Now,” without Soderbergh name-dropping them when talking about “Out of Sight” in the DVD commentary.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            I have seen so many movies because Tarantino referenced or talked about them.

          • Belated Comebacker

            Thought so. Kudos to directors who clearly remain steeped in the movies of yesteryear!

            (Another example of a director I would not have checked out on my own: Hal Ashby. Special thanks to Fincher and Soderbergh for name-dropping him as inspiration for this or that movie of theirs).

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I saw Lady Snowblood because of him and my god that movie is great.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Conversely, I watched All That Heaven Allows and it’s also great.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I almost had a project of watching all the movies Tarantino referenced but gave up after a few. He is correct though that Battle Royale is a classic.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            I had a project of watching a new movie every day for about a year, and having a list of Tarantino movies sure helped with that.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            That’s a great idea!!

        • It very much does live up to it! Even knowing its reputation, I was still shocked by the ending. And then hilariously entertained by the alternate “happy” ending on the DVD, in which the hero does a magnificent stunt and then reveals his new mechanical hand (genuinely!)

          I remain a Tarantino fan, and I’d never accuse him of ripping off old movies, but I didn’t care for The Hateful Eight. There’s a clear line of influence between the two films, but Great Silence had so much more weight for me because I actually cared about the fate of the characters. Or some of them, at least.

      • clytie

        I really love Kathleen Turner’s performance in Peggy Sue Got Married. She gets the body language of an insecure teenage girl perfect.

        Is Safety Not Guaranteed on that Letterboxd list?

        • It is! The list is here: https://letterboxd.com/mortom/list/time-travel-romance/ – I’ve seen (and loosely ranked) the first 15, I’m not sure how many of the other 5 I’ll bother with as they don’t seem terribly appealing, apart from the Korean film which was remade as The Lake House, if I can find it anywhere.

          • clytie

            Yeah! I have a soft spot (possibly on my head) for time travel stories.

          • Same! I highly recommend The Infinite Man if you can find any way of seeing it, it’s an incredibly fun Australian time travel movie that should be better known!

    • The Dark Tower: I liked it. Really. It’s not and never will be confused with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. But it worked for me for the most as a riff on the book series and its source material. It’s a B movie, and sometimes that’s fine. And I loved McConaughey’s performance as the Man in Black, very much in line with the character in the various books. (Elba was very good, but one thing that was curious was how little screen time he had. It takes a while till we get the feel of this performance, though it’s also in line with the books.)

      Will add that I am not entirely sure who this film is for. Non-fans seem to be really bored with it. But some hardcore fans probably wanted an actual adaptation. The most I can say is that I think there are a lot of hardcore King fans who love the books for what they are – a weird mix of epic fantasy, horror, pulp science fiction, outright theft from every work of fiction King loves, and self-examination by King – but who also know these are not great works, not in the same league as King’s best. People like me are fine seeing the things we love from the books without the tons and tons of exposition, baggage, backstory, and rumination. (OK, I still want to see Eddie and Susannah in a movie or TV show. But I really am fine not having Roland’s teenage years rehashed once more.)

      • Belated Comebacker

        Speaking of recent King adaptations…any interest in the new version of “It?” I’ve spoken to some people who love “The Dark Tower,” but don’t have any interest in his straight-up horror works.

        • For the most part, I am able to read King’s horror works (at least his older ones), since they tend to be more than horror. So I read It long ago. But I don’t love it the way many hardcore King horror fans do. I view the upcoming movie the way I do many King adaptations, with curiosity about what changes are being made and who is playing the roles. I have low expectations because of some of the changes I’ve heard about and because no good movie ever opens the weekend after Labor Day. But I am at least somewhat curious.

          But it’s a much higher priority for me to find a way to watch 11/22/63 than to see the new It. (11/22/63 ranks very, very high on my King list.)

          • Belated Comebacker

            And 11/22/63 is one of King’s later adaptations as well (which just goes to show the dude’s still got it!)

          • 11/22/63 is the one post-“retirement” book I love. Joyland was fun. Duma Key and Lisey’s Story were readable and likeable but forgettable, Finders Keepers was a bland echo of a typical Michael Connelly book with a King overlay, and Under the Dome was a mess. (Way behind on the rest, though The Cell is a zombie book, which I dislike so I am never going back for that.)

          • Drunk Napoleon

            I love zombie stories and hated Cell, FWIW.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Have you read Revival? It’s pretty fantastic and the slow burn into outright nihilist cosmic horror scared the shit out of me.

          • I need to be in the right mood for that level of horror.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Oh for sure, and it’s unsettling as hell, but it was just a pleasure to know that King in his late 60’s can still write something so brutal like that. Still got it!

          • Defense Against The Dark Arts

            Have you seen the 11/22/63 series with James Franco? It’s frustrating because they get a lot right, but when they deviate from the source it doesn’t work.

          • Lacking Hulu for the moment, I need to see about getting the DVD at some point, or switching to/adding Hulu.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I just read It and loved it, so absolutely. It also looks like an interesting adaptation in its own right, like the two part film structure and some of the footage that isn’t in the novel (the TV spot with Pennywise buried in a TV audience looks bone chilling).

          • Belated Comebacker

            I’ll be honest: I have no real interest in “It.” We’ll see how it does with critics, but I never found the Tim Curry version frightening, and therefore, seeing a clown pop up in the sewer still looks silly.

            I realize “It” is supposed to be more than a clown show, but, again, this is the problem with trying to pull off a Lovecraftian nightmare of a creature: What one person finds scary isn’t what everyone finds scary. Which is probably why Lovecraft is so damn hard to adapt (unless done indirectly, such as “The Thing,” or “Alien.”) Or if you’re really good, like Guillermo del Toro (RIP his “Mountains of Madness” adaptation).

          • Miller

            Hmm … I never got Lovecraft vibes from It, the cosmic horror origin seems more of an excuse for It’s existence than an attempt at the ineffable. Because what makes It It is its adaptability — It knows that scariness varies from person to person, which is why It changes to fit the circumstances (with King’s skill as a horror writer still making those circumstances uniformly scary to the reader — he cranks out so many great set pieces here). It is ultimately a metaphor for childhood and is therefore steeped in the personal, rather than cosmic, horror of each individual’s growing up.

        • The Ploughman

          The adaptation that confuses me is the Spike Original Series version of The Mist that is coming (already came?) out. Stretching a closed-room novella that barely sustained a feature film a few years ago? No thank you.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            According to the TV Club grades it seems to have already become pretty terrible and I don’t even think the first season is finished.

      • Miller

        Wow, a fairly positive Dark Tower review! I am one of those hardcore fans who tries to maintain perspective (the fifth and sixth books in the series are … not great) but I’m finding it very hard not to be annoyed and put off by the changes in story and particularly tone here — that first book is simple yet expansive at its end, a great way to set up a series, and here the movie is apparently blowing everything out from the get-go. Not having a lot of Roland being a taciturn, possibly homicidal badass is a Bad Choice. And Akiva Goldsman apparently shoving his fucking daddy issues into every god damn thing he fucking touches is reeeeeeeeally not helping. Maybe I’ll see this with a few beers.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I am really, really confused as to why they’re not just adapting the first book. Killing Walter? Really?

          • The first book is regarded by a lot of fans as a bad book. (My wife just tells newbies to start with the second.) So while you can make a lot of arguments about bad story choices, I can see why it makes sense not to do the first book.

          • Miller

            Man … I can see regarding the first book as a bad novel, it’s piecemeal and way outside King’s comfort zone stylistically (while the second is probably the best overall book in the series, Detta Walker and all — King is firing on all cylinders there) but its weirdness is what makes it compelling for me. If it is bad, it’s bad in a more unique way than late-period King.

          • Young King was not set in his ways yet, and also not so cutesy in some of his narration. And there is also an incredible spareness to The Gunslinger. It’s not my thing, and I prefer the remix if I have to prefer any version, but I know someone who really digs that spareness.

          • Miller

            The AVC comments nail it — they’re trying to create a universe instead of make a movie.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            You know, I wouldn’t mind that nearly as much if they were any good at it.

          • It felt like the opposite, though. The movie ends definitely, and seems to close the door on any sequels.

            Prequels are another matter.

        • I like the fifth book the most, as it tells a more or less complete story, has some really bad-ass women, makes Roland about as human as he ever gets, and does wonders with Father Callaghan. But I can see that the endless references to westerns and pop culture might be a problem.

          No argument about the sixth book, though. It’s not a book, it’s a pit stop.

          • Miller

            The return of Father Callahan is probably the best part of the latter books, it’s so out of left field but it works. Wolves just has no momentum for me, it’s a big book with no stakes. I guess thematically it’s nice that Roland blows into an Old West town and doesn’t murder everyone like he did last time, but Tull was one chapter and this is 700 pages.

            I’ll give Goldsman I Am Legend, which is underrated, but I take away his work on Fringe.

      • edibletalkingchairs .

        I really want the see this movie because upon seeing the trailer my brother exclaimed “Look at that fucking one tap!!”. Which was hilarious.

        (this is a one tap btw)
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg6TQy6pGfs

        So yeah i’ll probably see this.

    • clytie

      Friday: I finally got around to watching the episode 12 of Twin Peaks. It was nice to see Audrey again.

      I also watched Unsolved Mysteries, because of course I did. They did a segment I had never seen before about one of my favorite cases, the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker/Golden State Killer/a million other
      names.

      Saturday: I watched the Game of Thones episode “Spoils of Thorns,” which had leaked online. Then, Manhunt: Unabomber which wasn’t very good.

      Sunday: I started watching The Americans a few months, but abandoned it. I decided to finish it. I finished season 1 and started season 2. I need more wigs!

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Summer – First 3 episodes, and I’m having a hell of a time as was expected. The running joke that everyone is 15 years older than the movie but are “16 or 17” is both hilarious and kind of sweet in that it makes the series feel even more like a joyful costume party, the principal actors playing at being teenagers again in their own absurd world. Thank god for Wet Hot American Summer and for Jeneane Garafolo making out with a can of corn.

      First half of a Chris Burdick documentary Sans Soleil, a very beautiful, jarring, and McLuhan-esque travelogue of Japan and Africa, principally Japan. It’s inherently a bit messed up in that it’s a Westerner commenting on Asian and African culture but Burdick’s insights are startling and provocative – the power imbalance between camera and subject seems as much a subject of the film as anything else as well.

      • pico79

        Chris Marker?

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Yes! Crap.

          • pico79

            No worries! Curious what you think about it when you’re done. I haven’t seen Sans Soleil yet, but Grin Without a Cat floored me, so I’m eagerly seeking him out.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Yeah me and my friend were watching it Friday night but its an intimidating film to watch even 50 minutes of.

    • Miller

      Game of Thrones — episodes frequently feel, well, episodic, checking in at one location for five to seven minutes before moving on, so it’s cool when the show switches up and holds in place unexpectedly, especially when it means blood and chaos. There is a real sense of confusion and mounting horror from the Lannister crew realizing what they’re up against that we normally see when people are confronting wights, it’s a smart way to show just how freaky this army is and reinforce the qualms about using it.

      Old memes — drunkenly watched one of those YouTube comps and fell down the rabbit hole. Back in 2003/04 the phrases “hokay” and “shit guys” and “but I am le tired” were in near daily use for me and they somehow got wiped from my brain in the intervening years until this reminder. My madelines are in Flash. And some stuff was entirely missed to begin with, Mrs. Miller apparently watched Charley the Unicorn a billion times to my none and she was more than happy to share its creepy cheapness. CHAAAAAAAAAARLEEEEEEEEEEY

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Shun the nonbeliever! Shunnnnnnnnnnn

    • DJ JD

      nu-MST3K: The Beast of Hollow Mountain – “I didn’t expect to ever have to say this, but this scene of a cowboy swinging in front of a dinosaur is going on too long!” Yeah, this is growing on me. The film itself feels oddly anachronistic, seeing as how Harrison “Gerroff My Lawn” Ford et al made Cowboys and Aliens a few years back. This movie, however, clearly has no idea what to do with its sharp-left-turn concept, resolving literally none of its plot points at the end.

      Breaking Bad – S3E3, wherein a man moves back into a house and a woman sleeps with a man. The sense of compromise has now so thoroughly permeated the family that the poor kids are about only unsullied characters left, but this episode was striking for how Skyler’s arc seems to be about drawing out how avoiding a hard choice through compromise and brinksmanship just increases the compromise. Her lawyer laid out what seems painfully, readily apparent: she’s not protecting anything, and we know in the audience that if she didn’t want to go all-in with the police she could still have a quiet conversation with Hank. But of course she didn’t do that. I’m not saying I’m unsympathetic towards her; she’s in a horrible spot, and frankly the show did her a great service by making her smart enough to figure this out. But she has a very hard choice in front of her with a very clear “correct” answer…and she didn’t take it.

      Also, I should’ve said this before but Aaron Paul is blowing me away on this show. Early on, his perpetual blank stare and “bro, what?” mannerisms left me thinking he was doing a one-note comic-relief shtick, but whether he grew into the character or had a one-note character accurately dialed in, he has put in some amazing work. The cast is uniformly very strong but he might be my favorite part in it. Jesse’s buying the house with all of his money and then moving in with no further plan than a sleeping bag on the floor and listening to _____ as long as he can is heartbreakingly consistent with the character. The little bro needs a better plan than his current one, as usual.

    • Delmars Whiskers

      The Incredible Jessica James–Yes, Jessica Williams is great, Chris O’Dowd is charming, and that’s literally all I can really say about this. It is absolutely Generic Indie Semi-Quirky Romcom, with absolutely no plot or character developments that are in any way unexpected. Like most movies of this type, it would have been improved by at least ninety percent if it took place anywhere other than NYC (or LA, or even Chicago), and if the people who made it had any idea what people do for a living in the real world. (O’Dowd plays an app designer, which is right up there with architect in the list of well-paying but, you know, vaguely artistic jobs held by male protagonists in scripts by very lazy writers.) It wasn’t bad, but it sure as hell wasn’t good.

      Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon–A briskly paced, relentlessly shallow documentary on the briefly great humor magazine, and all its various stage and screen spinoffs. More an exploration of the various personalities who came together to create the Lampoon than a celebration of the work itself, which gets short shrift. (Even clips of stage shows with the likes of John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray are only shown in brief clips, and often with interviews running over them.) If you don’t have any interest in the subject, this certainly won’t convert you, and if you do, you’ll be endlessly frustrated.

      Oklahoma–The 1999 filmed version of the London revival, featuring Hugh Jackman and a mostly British cast trying to make their way through Oscar Hammerstein’s exaggerated version of a Southwestern dialect. The songs are great, the staging (by Trevor Nunn) mostly impeccable, but man, this show is structured even worse than I remembered. The first act has almost no plot whatsoever, but the last fifteen minutes of the second act are ridiculously overstuffed. Definitely one of those shows that makes you think it’s ending many times before it does, but still by far the best thing I watched all weekend.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Apparently Joel McHale is playing Chevy Chase in the upcoming movie about National Lampoon, which is a weird bit of meta casting.

        • Delmars Whiskers

          I’m genuinely hoping for the best with that movie, although the track record of dramatic movies about the creation of comedy is…not great. Incidentally, Chase himself comes off well in the documentary. His sad remembrance of Doug Kenney’s final days actually made me tear up.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            That’s surprising! I feel like Chase is a dick based on everything we’ve heard but maybe more of a tragic one than someone with no redeeming virtues.

          • Delmars Whiskers

            A lot of the great comedy creators that emerged in the late sixties and seventies (Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and especially Michael O’Donoghue) were colossal dicks, and I think it was partly to do with the times, partly a deliberate persona that unfortunately blended into their actual lives. In Chase’s case, his naked desire for stardom early on made him a pariah with the very people he most respected, and he’s been nursing a grudge ever since.

    • Foreign Correspondent – a perfectly Hitchcockian ride that starts off intriguing and then just keeps delivering. The second hour in particular takes some turns I wouldn’t have expected, and pulls them off – the plane sequence is even more effective than the rain-soaked assassination and the mill scene, and I love how George Sanders gets to not just deliver wisecracks throughout but actually get shit done and be a hero on his own. The ending packs a punch even before the final monologue (which can’t help but take you out of the movie, for better and worse, anyway) – just the knowledge that the characters have almost the entire WWII ahead of them lends their fictional lives a gravity and weight that couldn’t have been there (at least not in the same way) when the film was first released.

      The Wages of Fear – count me as one of the people who aren’t into the long introduction, or the over-the-top final minute. I’m more of a Sorcerer man overall, but find it curious that neither film has my ideal ending – if I had to tell this story, I would have ditched any last-minute twists and just left the protagonist alive and with money in his pocket, but deeply shaken and hollowed-out by the entire experience. Both films even have shots conveying this that they could have ended with, before they proceed further. But actual death, either onscreen or heavily implied, is kind of cheap here. But what’s ultimately most important is that the entire drive with the nitro is as viscerally effective as Clouzot could make it, and it earns the film its classic status.

      A Man Escaped and Pickpocket – for the past year, I’ve been making my way through Bresson’s filmography one or two movies every few months, and having very distinct reactions each time. The style doesn’t change, but the subject matter does, and in these two films the latter really fits the former – the protagonists here have extremely good reasons to not visibly demonstrate emotion, and their situations are inherently intense and involving. (Contrast that with Lancelot du Lac, one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, where people profess their undying love for each other with all the emotion of comatose patients.) But where A Man Escaped uses Bresson’s technique for drama as well as any film possibly could, Pickpocket‘s riffing on Crime and Punishment did almost nothing for me, and on the whole I still find the technique needlessly limiting, and in the worst cases even self-defeating. What I see right now is an artist not so much filtering the world through his style, but straight up bending the world to the style, and while that can occasionally result in a great work, it’s not really a quality I gravitate towards.

      Dunkirk, in preparation for which I actually used the opportunity to watch all the above classics. (Nolan named them as inspirations). I’m very happy that Nolan has finally made a film whose ambition directly results in a short runtime and stripped-down characters and exposition-free narrative – at this point in his career he could have well settled into not challenging himself this way at all. It’s a powerful approach to introduce a small conflict, make it the most important thing on screen, then step back as it’s impacted by unforeseen circumstances; the fate of a heavily wounded soldier being carried onto a ship means the world for a few minutes, until the ship gets torpedoed and no one can afford to care anymore. Nolan manages to depict this and similar small stories (the most powerful being the one of a 17-year-old kid who dies one of the most tragically pointless deaths I’ve ever seen in cinema) without either overly manipulating the audience or turning himself into a cold-blooded observer, and that’s no small feat. However, he still succumbs to heavy-handedness in the finale, and I could imagine an even riskier but ultimately even more effective film that took the concept further and found new protagonists every 10 or 15 minutes instead of tracking the same few people from beginning to the end. The jumbled chronology also adds nothing to the movie aside from a single great moment with Cillian Murphy.

      • Son of Griff

        FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT is a constantly entertaining movie whose focus wanders all over the place but never becomes distracting, thanks largely to the growing pessimism that accumulates regarding the unfolding of geopolitical events. The production design and special effects hold up incredibly well.

        • Very true about the pessimism. When the plane randomly gets shot down, followed by “She said she’s sorry, she thought we were a bomber. She’s steaming to our rescue right away!” it really hits home how the characters aren’t so much in an entertaining chase thriller anymore, but have to face the grim absurdity of a real war.

          • Son of Griff

            I think its also reflected in how McCrea, the charismatic amateur crime reporter, gradually becomes a less relevant character to moving the action as the movie proceeds, and Sanders, the more experienced professional, takes hold of the plot to expose Marshall, who ranks among the most tragically conflicted villains in the Hitchcock canon. This shift in focus, of course, does nothing to change the outcome of events in a more positive direction.

      • Son of Griff

        I think you really hit the paradox of DUNKIRK extremely well here. It does a remarkable job of martialing the elements of cinema to root moments of intense action in a wider sense of place, consisting of air, sky and water. It’s extremely poetic in blending aesthetic and environmental components with the adrenaline of blockbuster entertainment. It’s sense of artistic discipline, the control it exercises in how the spectator moves from large scale spectacle and intimacy, seems to be its only point. I don’t perceive a larger meditation on the war itself, war in general, or the responsibility of spectatorship.

    • The Narrator

      Inception: I last watched this five years ago, suffering from a terrible cold, and loved it. Now I’m wondering if the cold actually impeded my ability to like it more, because on this viewing I actively adored it and now think it’s my favorite Nolan. Even the exposition everybody complains about I found to just fly by and be super-engaging, and of course once the dreams start the movie is just on a tear.

      I also listened to the episode of Blank Check with Griffin and David on Inception, which was a great deal more focused than any of the other guestless episodes this season while also being the goofiest thing they’ve done this season, and I loved it.

      • silverwheel

        Inception‘s screenplay is sophisticated as hell, communicating as much as it does with a kind of breezy grace. Also of note is that it only explains what is necessary – plenty more is left unexplained, told to the audience through inferences and visual hints (probably my favorite detail of the movie is the lack of any labels on the bottles and vials in the chemist’s office – names and descriptions would be utterly useless, and the blankness of all those liquids offers a tantalizing possible hint as to how all of this is playing out).

      • Their goofiness of late has been offputting. I have delayed listening to the Dark Knight episode for this reason.

        That said, as I am not a fan of Bigelow’s, I am about to take a break from the show anyway.

        • The Narrator

          I think the goofiness works as an extended hangover from the almost non-stop analysis and championing of the Spielberg miniseries (which is my favorite thing they’ve ever done). I’m very interested in the Bigelow miniseries, which takes away the problems of a). Griffin still being stir-crazy from The Tick and b). everybody knowing the movies they’re covering like the back of their hands. You can get away with barely talking about The Dark Knight, but you gotta be really involved for Strange Days or Blue Steel, let alone The Weight of Water or K-19: The Widowmaker.

    • pico79

      Was on internet/media hiatus for a week, but I’m back now. I did get to see Cate Blanchett sitting a few feet away from me, so maybe I should unplug more often?

      One movie I did see: Don’t Think Twice. I agree with some of Julius’ criticisms in his review – namely, that it’s a boilerplate indie film that doesn’t take any big risks or deviate much from formula – but there’s a reason why the landscape is filled with bad examples of the form: like comedy, it’s hard to do well. There are so many moments in the film where the tonal balance is hanging by a gossamer thread, but it’s an almost unqualified success for what it sets out to do, and that alone makes it worthwhile.

      One week behind on Twin Peaks: last week’s episode (Part 12) is the first I’ve disliked more than liked, so I didn’t jump straight to the next. I’ll catch up some time this week.

      Caught up on GoT, and it’s still mostly fun, empty calories. With an endgame in place, there are fewer surprises now, but that doesn’t mean some of the big moments aren’t satisfying, at least.

      • With you on Part 12 of Twin Peaks, but thankfully it got back on track this week and even made a couple of scenes from that episode a lot more interesting retroactively.

        • pico79

          That’s good to hear. Thanks!

      • DJ JD

        Not to pry, but can you share how you came to be in Cate the Great’s company?

        • pico79

          Funny enough, I got dragged to see a (stage) show I really, really didn’t want to see, and she was sitting in our row. A few people went up to her afterwards, but I’m no good at that.

          • DJ JD

            If she knew, I’d guess she’d thank you for letting her be.

          • pico79

            Right. She’s in the audience to enjoy a show, not be the show.

          • CineGain

            “Right. She’s in the audience to enjoy a show, not be the show.”

            Advice to any audience member setting near celebrities: Just because someone is famous doesn’t mean you have to beg them for your own attention. Celebrities are human too, they just have fame then your average schlock.

    • edibletalkingchairs .

      London Has Fallen

      HA!!!!
      Gerald Butler’s asshole all-American mother-fucker is so over the top its sort of glorious. The action is a little tiresome though.

    • The Ploughman

      Finished Flight of the Conchords. Fun as hell. Wish there were more.

    • silverwheel

      The Dark Knight Rises – I’ve long enjoyed this movie seemingly more than the general consensus – it’s too plotty for its own good, but does a very successful job at executing it. The screenplay takes a sharp turn back toward theatricality, but that also works because there’s an operatic sweep to this movie that is (for me) ultimately unable to resist. I love the structure of it, with the long melancholic buildup, and the shock of Bane’s coup succeeding splendidly halfway through the film. One would expect the film to be a long battle to prevent Bane’s coup from coming to fruition, but letting him succeed and putting Batman out of commission for a while put the last act of the film into a realm of genuine unpredictability. But the scene I keep coming back to, perhaps my favorite of the whole thing, is Alfred’s last scene before he leaves. It’s utterly quiet and completely devastating, with a kind of pure grief that I don’t think Nolan’s ever captured before. And it’s the emotional and thematic center of the film, perfectly communicating the anguish it took to keep a lie alive for so long, and that undoing the lie would be more painful than the consequences it was created to block.

      But there’s another aspect to this film that I’ve never seen before, and that’s because I had previously not seen its follow-up. Instead of seeing this movie as a completion, I came to see it much more as a warm-up for Nolan’s next film, particularly in the quiet mood of the first act, and Alfred’s pivotal scene which would have an even more devastating twin in the next film. In retrospect, I think Nolan’s personal ambitions may have won out slightly over the Batman stuff – I’m not articulating this well at all, but bear with me for a minute. By “personal ambitions” I’m not talking about financial success or even pet themes, I’m talking about the feelings, tones, and moods that draw an artist from one work to the next, the bits of the future that they hear when one project is coming to a close. The Dark Knight was one of those rare times when a filmmaker’s personal ambitions (i.e. what they want to grow and develop within their technique) was also in perfect alignment with what would be the best way to tell their story material. Jaws and Star Wars are two other such examples. I think with TDKR Nolan opted not to do a direct sequel to the previous entry, but rather to use it as a testing ground for a certain kind of structure, and to craft scenes that had certain kinds of moods and emotions that he was drawn to. It’s debatable whether this was a help or hindrance to TDKR (I still say yes on the whole because of how passionate the last act is), but it definitely makes me respect Nolan more as a filmmaker. Which brings us to…

      Interstellar – HUBBA HUBBA HUBBA. I had never seen this until yesterday, and I feel downright ashamed at myself. This is the movie where Nolan took the (false) criticism that he was a cold, emotionless filmmaker and set it on fire, did a pagan dance around the fire, salted the ground where the fire once had been, and then nuked the site from orbit just to be sure. Is this a perfect movie? No, but I have no hesitation calling it a masterpiece, and I have nothing but pure love for it. The sentimentality lands with force (the scene of McConaughey leaving the farm on bad terms with his daughter is literally painful for me to watch), and the tension is ridiculous – the consequences of everything are so clear and important that I watched much of it with my jaw on the floor. Not just how much time they lost on the first planet, but then McConaughey starts listening to twenty-some years of messages and it’s like the scene of Frank Poole listening to his parents’ message from Earth, only with the loneliness dialed up to 37 out of ten. Michael Caine’s scene on his deathbed is a fucking sword through the gut, furthering TDKR‘s theme of a lie needing to be torn down and amping up the grief until the Alfred scene looks like a musical number with the Seven Dwarves. And the ending gets to a level of wonder that Contact aspired to but couldn’t quite achieve. On a purely personal level I would have gone with the original, less hopeful ending, but I still love the one we got to pieces. I now think this is Nolan’s masterwork, and am placing this film near the top of my favorites.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Glad you liked them both. I think TDKR and Interstellar are both very flawed movies but they have a huge ambition and craft to them that I don’t think any other blockbuster filmmaker could possibly bring to the table. The Dark Knight Rises in particular is like a messy gargantuan pop epic and I’d take it over a good chunk of the recent extended universe movies.

        I’d also mention that Nolan seems to really take into consideration how lies work in both these movies. He’s always been obsessed with how characters lie to themselves and to each other (Memento, Insomnia, etc) but starting with The Prestige he really delved into how a perpetual lie can eat away at people, even if they don’t realize it. While TDK ends with a “necessary” lie, its sequel suggests that the lie was still wrong. That’s a radical way to go in a direct sequel to a Zeitgeist capturing movie.

      • The Ploughman

        No argument on Jaws and I’m exhausted of arguments on TDKR, but while Star Wars aligned success with Lucas & co’s abilities, did it really match his personal ambitions? The book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (which tbf contains quite a bit of speculating about peoples’ motivations and psychologies) suggests that the Lucas of THX and American Graffiti was much more in line with what he wanted to make, and that Star Wars was tossed off partially to show that he could succeed in genre if he really wanted to.

        • silverwheel

          Oh definitely, but George at the time was also talking that he wanted to do a big studio-style movie before he retired (after the stresses of Graffiti he was already talking about retiring early). Both THX and Graffiti were quick shoots with small crews, almost all on location. Since he now had a budget to work with (and with Apocalypse Now on the shelf at the time), he wanted to make a big movie with massive sets on soundstages and all that jazz, to indulge in a lot of things that he couldn’t do on a microbudget and a quick shooting schedule.

          Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is far from a perfect history, but it is one of the only times that Marcia Lucas talked at length about her experiences, and it’s one of the only histories to give her the credit she deserves.

      • Son of Griff

        I second all of this.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      I’ve got a backlog here, plus the typical Sunday night slate. Lemme clear the decks for y’all before I have to get to writing comedy jokes…

      GLOW, through the end of the season. I remarked last time that Marc Maron’s character (Sam) was a committed professional, willing to get his ass kicked in defense of his actors, because he’s a director and that’s what you do; we see it again in episode 6, when he realizes that Ruth is the perfect heel for Debbie, and tries to talk her into it– and they have this exchange:

      “She fucked my husband!”
      “Oh, so what? That’s life.”

      Sam doesn’t give a shit about your offstage drama; all he cares about is the production. And yeah, he’s an asshole and a cocaine addict, but he’s still a god-damn professional.

      Anyway, the show finishes really well, with a couple of surprising twists and hilarious sequences. (Chris Lowell continues to be an unexpected delight as Bash.) I admit, I may have teared up a little when Machu Picchu finds her confidence and steps into the ring. And even I was surprised by the ending sequences, although I guess wrestling fans might not have been.

      Rich Sommer is really carving out a niche for himself playing people who are The Worst. Also, Netflix is apparently the go-to place if you want to watch an Alison Brie character get an abortion, but handled in a respectful manner where there’s no character conflict about the decision.

      Would recommend this show, certainly. One of Netflix’s better options this year (honestly, we stalled out on Master of None two episodes in but went through this in, like, two weeks, tops).

      Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, Episode 1. I mean, it was fine. Pretty entertaining. You know what you’re getting from the Wet Hot franchise at this point, and this episode is certainly some of that. (Favorite gag: Everyone manages to arrive to the camp on time despite leaving ridiculously late, and in at least one case, apparently requiring time travel to do so.) Also, I finally discovered just who exactly Jai Courtney is.

      Game of Thrones, “The Spoils of War.” Probably the best episode this season. We get some long-delayed reunions, particularly at Winterfell; speaking of Winterfell, we get an Arya-Brienne sparring match, and Bran freaking out Littlefinger!; some delightful moments with Davos; oh, and we get A FRICKIN’ DRAGON FIGHTING A BATTLE IN WESTEROS, FINALLY. When I heard the rumblings and saw the Lannister army getting their shield line formed, I said, “We’d better get some shields melted this episode!” The episode delivered.

      Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 13. Definitely makes episode 12 look better in hindsight, particularly with the increasing implication that all is not as it seems in the Audrey story; in addition, something very strange is going on in Sarah Palmer’s home. But this one delivered on a lot of levels; I’m all in on the twin journeys of Dougie-Coop and Dark Coop, and we got plenty of both this episode. I wasn’t sure how Tom Sizemore’s character would handle his situation; naturally, Dougie-Coop’s innate goodness leads him to come clean. (Also, that opening scene with the Mitchum brothers and their conga line– fucking hilarious.)

      Speaking of Dark Coop: I’ll miss Ray, who’s got one of those instantly memorable faces that makes me want to see him in every crime drama on TV from here on out. The entire sequence at the Farm was suitably ludicrous: I remembered in episode 1, when Dark Coop told Beulah to get better security, she replies “It’s a world of truckers.” And, naturally, a world of truckers would settle questions of leadership and superiority with arm-wrestling matches.

      I wish David Bowie was still with us, for many reasons, but one in particular is that I want to see Philip Jeffries again.

      Apparently there were some strange happenings in the reflections of Audrey Horne and Big Ed Hurley; I had trouble catching them myself. (No trouble in noticing that Sarah Palmer seems to be stuck in some sort of loop, though.) Something is definitely going on with the nature of time in Twin Peaks right now.

      Also, James Hurley!

      Rick and Morty, “Pickle Rick.” It could have been a ludicrous premise stretched thin, but it worked for me. I have some trepidation about when Harmon/Roiland try to tackle Serious Issues with these characters (I was not a fan of some of the choices they made for Rick in season 2), and I think they did a much better job this episode. Susan Sarandon guests as the therapist, who rightly points out that some of the adventures Rick goes on (such as the one this episode, after he turns himself into a pickle to get out of family therapy, then accidentally gets washed down the sewer) are just thrill-seeking means of avoiding the ordinary everyday work it takes to be human. Also, Rick’s adventures are a hoot in their own right– the entire embassy scene felt like we walked into a different movie altogether, and I love shows that make their worlds feel much bigger than what we see on an episode-by-episode basis.

      Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge. So, Saturday night a friend of mine and his wife opened up their house to invite people over to hang out; I was the only one who showed up, so he and I ended up drinking whiskey and watching the whole series. It really does never get old; what’s always remarkable to me is just how entirely ill-suited Alan is to hosting a talk show, making even the most mundane and ordinary moments stilted and awkward and self-serving. TV Tropes puts it better than I can:

      The great irony of Alan’s life is that he’s desperate to be a famous celebrity, in particular a chat-show host, yet possesses almost no social skills that would help him with this whatsoever. He’s chronically lacking in charm and charisma, he’s no good at small talk, he’s boring, pedantic and obsessed with inane trivial minutiae, his interpersonal skills come off as smarmy, he tends to say inappropriate things at the wrong time and has very little filter, he doesn’t really seem to understand how the world works, he’s thin-skinned and tends to get overly combative at the slightest provocation, he’s arrogant and smug with very little justification, he’s childish, he doesn’t care about other people beyond what they can do for him, and so on.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Bash may be my favorite character on GLOW – the moment when he puts on glitter eyeliner is so poetic and lovely.

        I really need to watch the Alan Patridge series when I get the chance, I really liked the movie.

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          There are many series– let alone specials, books, and movies– and they are all outstanding. I’d say the three most essential works are

          TV: Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge
          TV: I’m Alan Partridge
          Audiobook: I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan

          I like the way GLOW hinted at Bash’s sexuality without ever saying anything explicit– we get a lot of moments from him that are, at least, the cultural signifiers a gay man in the 1980s might identify with, or use to identify himself.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Coogan’s really the Comedian’s Comedian isn’t he? It feels like he put wince inducing comedy into play years before it became huge in the UK and US.

            See I wouldn’t notice that sort of thing, so when he put on the eyeliner I went “Ohhhhhhh.”

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            I didn’t initially notice either, but the comments on the AV Club pointed out a lot of things to me. (I mean, not least of which is that he lives with a man-servant who’s been his best friend since the third grade.) He’s already got a collection of Bob Mackie costumes for the women when he invites them over for the party in episode 3, for example. Someone suggested in a different life Bash would be a fashion designer, and I can see it. (I also liked the touch that, in the finale, before the eyeliner he uses “embroidered” as a verb– how much embroidering did men do in the 80s, anyway?)

            And yeah, Coogan (and particularly Alan Partridge) were a major influence on much of the cringe comedy to come, probably most directly The Office, which of course influenced so much that came after it, too. Armando Iannucci also deserves tons of credit for being the character’s co-creator and sharing most of the writing load with Coogan.

            BTW, I can’t recommend the audiobook of the autobiography enough. It’s already pitch-perfect Partridge, but even better, if you’ve seen some of the TV shows (and thus the periods in his life he is describing), you’ll know how often he A)rationalizes that whatever bad thing happened was actually good or B)just flat-out lies about the events that occurred.

  • Belated Comebacker

    Having now read your review of this film, Julius, I’m curious to know what you’d make of “The Belko Experiment” if it was directed by Takashi Miike or Bong Joon-Ho. In other words a director who really knows how mix-up their genres.

    • I mean, James Gunn knows how to play with genre. From Tromeo and Juliet through the Dawn of the Dead remake and even Slither and Scooby Doo, Gunn knew what was violently funny, and played around with genres and satire like nobody’s business.

      But, this script felt like a first draft that Gunn had kicking around for a decade, and was all “sorry, I’m busy with Guardians. I can’t do a rewrite. Here you go. SmokeBomb!”

  • Miller

    California Dreamin is a great song! Although this remains the best cover of it: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CqDGTT2OtsQ

  • BurgundySuit

    Come join the fun for Year of the Month (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 9th: Jacob Thomas Klemmer: Vagabond
    August 10th: Drunk Napoleon: Back to the Future
    August 11th: Gillianren: The Black Cauldron
    August 14th: Balthazar Bee: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
    August 15th: Wallflower: Into the Night
    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 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
    August 30th: the split saber: Red Sonja/Ladyhawke/Legend
    Tentative: Vomas: Summer Rental

    • I’ve started writing something about Summer Rental, but I’m not sure if it will be any good. Is there still a date free to stuff it into if I manage to hammer it into something useful?

      • BurgundySuit

        Any date that’s not already on here!

      • BurgundySuit

        And it looks like the 15th just opened up!

        • Alright, sign me up.

    • I might postpone Into the Night until the 22nd, but it will definitely get done.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      It’s tempting but I don’t think I have anything to say that hasn’t been better said elsewhere. (I’m not gonna top Steve Hyden on Fables of the Reconstruction, and I can’t say that I have enough specifically to say about Songs From the Big Chair.)

  • edibletalkingchairs .

    I do love violent gore-fests.

  • clytie

    Question of the day: The discussion here last week and watching the first part Manhunt: Unabomber, made me wonder other people’s standards of accuracy for stories that profess to be “based on a true story are and what exceptions they make?

    • clytie

      Both my parents were/are enormous history buffs. I hated/hate watched anything historical with either/both of them because they were/are so nit-picky that it drove/drives me insane, because I never cared about how accurate something purporting to be “based on a true stories” was. As Doug “Nostalgia Critic” Walker put it, “it’s based on a true story, it’s not a true story.” I’ve watch a massive amount movies and TV shows about the Tudor reign, such as well, The Tudors and Reign and never gave a second thought to how laughably inaccurate they were, and Reign had a soap opera-style plot that gave Nostradamus (yes, THAT Nostradamus) a love interest. I loved every ridiculous minute of Reign, until that Hillary Clinton nonsense in the finale, but that’s another thing entirely.

      While watching Manhunt: Unabobmer, I became my parents. Throughout the entire thing I pointed out everything it got wrong.

      I am an admirer of Dr. Kaczynski. I agree with most of his philosophy (yes, I know just posting on the internet is contradictory to that philosophy, but I am a
      hypocrite), and have read his books. So could it be these inaccuracies bothered me because I have an interest in him, unlike the Tudors, who I don’t really care about?

      Except the only other work whose inaccuracies bothered me is Bugsy. Unlike with Kaczynski, I don’t know a ton about Siegel and he just isn’t interesting to me, but it bugged me that the film portrayed him as a big patriot. It didn’t even bug me that they gave him credit for building up Las Vegas, when that was really William Wilkerson. It was the patriotism.

      Someone here said about the film L.A. Confidential was a great adaption, even though it’s rather a loose adaption because it “captured the spirit of the novel.” I think that’s why both Bugsy and Manhunt: Unabomber were letdowns for me even though they weren’t adaptations, they failed the capture the spirit of the stories they were telling.

      • Son of Griff

        In the current age, filmmakers are capable of conveying, through tone, the degree to which they convey documentary like accuracy to their works. They expect audiences to know that dramatic license is necessary for theatrical representation, and don’t always subscribe to the belief that history must be presented for the viewer’s intellectual or moral edification.

        My father in law was a WWII P.O.W., and throughout his life was fascinated by the war. Later, he became a successful writer for a series of highly imaginative comics far removed from reality. To my knowledge he never tackled the war as a subject, largely because he held those who made WWII movies to a high level of authenticity. Any inaccuracy with uniforms, currency, weapons, and the like would take him completely out of the movie. For my academic colleagues, such attention to minutia is pedantry, but to my in law this was personal.

        For myself and most people whost tastes I repect, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is a moral and artistic abomination, yet this year I heard a rabbi say that, for him, it’s a profoundly moving film, as it reflects the experiences of his father and grandfather in the concentration camps, inasmuch as it relates to the sacrifices older people gave to their children in the midst of the Holocaust. Degrees in which accuracy, or even good taste, relate to our reception to True Story cinema, can be highly personal and culturally selective.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I heard a story from someone on the Dissolve facebook group about how for the Native American family they’d met they actually loved Dances With Wolves because for once the tribes in the film won. I think that this and Inglorious Basterds actually can bring in another question of when historical fiction can be more satisfying because they can rewrite an outcome for marginalized and persecuted groups.

          • Son of Griff

            Hyperbolically re-imagined historical fiction can also recover aspects of the past lost in the official narratives. In working on a project that I’m presenting next month, It’s been illuminating to look at the way that the Holocaust, in the American imagination, evoked a series of signifiers associated with authoritarianism during the cold war that minimized the centrality of anti Semitism to the event. This influenced last weeks piece on THE WRONG MAN to a certain extent, although I didn’t address it in fear of going off into a long tangent.

    • edibletalkingchairs .

      As long as the movies good it usually doesn’t matter to me. If the story is too close to a tragedy or a sensitive real life subject and i find some things were flubbed for dramatic effect the movie does lose some (or a lot of) respect in my eyes.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      I’m relatively fine with historical changes for the sake of plot convenience or condensing, but I draw the line at massive distortion, like The Imitation Game making Turing borderline autistic to fit current trends of intellectual characters in media (which is bizarre as Turing by all accounts was well liked by colleagues) or the infamous Cinderella Man depiction of Max Baer as a vicious boxer who liked killing men in the ring.

      • DJ JD

        I started to type something about the “core truth” of the story but then you beat me to it, so, this. I don’t mind that the Battle of Stirling left off the “…Bridge” in Braveheart, but I did get peevish with my friends about how they painted Longshanks, for example.

        It’s a tough one, because capturing the way people thought in very different time periods is astonishingly difficult, and frankly, it’s not something a typical moviegoing audience member cares to invest deeply enough to achieve. The “real” story of William Wallace involves people sufficiently far removed from our modern thinking and way of life that they’d qualify as aliens in a science fiction novel (and no, that is not a shot at the Scots!) But even if it’s hard to do well and nobody cares about it, I still feel like I was lied to when everything is neatly cut-and-dried and/or you get that low-calorie Disney humanism seeped into everything.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Indeed, getting into the mentality of a different world is something that interests me and that rarely emerges in historical films. A Field In England is mostly a crazed psychedelic trip but the sense of feudalism and class as something that is almost impossible to transcend felt very dead on in terms of the 17th century mindset.

          • Son of Griff

            My favorite bugaboo, as you have probably determined, is the type of historical pageant that congratulates the audience in terms of living in an era where humanistic modernisms transcend the structures of thought that define the past. I liked your comments on EXCALIBUR a month or so back, because you appreciate how the movie, which is much of a modern sensibility, respects the mindset of the time, and treats its character’s committment to its ideology without condescension.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            There you go – of course I also don’t find humanism past a certain point all that interesting as a philosophy so there you go. These days I’m more likely to cotton to Ballardian, eerie philsophical fiction than to a genre paen to human gloriousness.

          • Son of Griff

            I need you to join the programming committee for my film group.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            At least one Ben Wheatley film would be on the list.

          • Son of Griff

            Considering the average age of the club members, A FIELD IN ENGLAND might become a public health hazard.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I was going to say Kill List but considering that people my age seem actively upset after watching it I can’t imagine how much older folks would take it.

          • CineGain

            Does your film committee have any public safety rules in order to accommodate your audience own safety?

          • Son of Griff

            The founders have been displaying a certain ninny-ism of late regarding content. The theater where we do the screening itself has been cutting back on things, like leaving the lights on during the interminable string of ads before the show, that constitute a real hazard.

          • CineGain

            Your audience also has to be tortured through constant advertisements before a movie? Now, that’s painful, especially for a “arthouse” audience.

            On content, there was one funny remarked made by Nick Pinkerton on how the “arthouse” theaters are made up of generic faire starting a dame. Your theater seems like this sort of crowd, even with some of your picks being of a higher artistically quality.

          • CineGain

            Let’s get the whole gang together!

          • Have you seen The Witch? It’s the first movie I thought of reading your comment, and I think its idea of getting us to understand the characters’ deep-rooted beliefs and fears by actually allowing their sources to exist onscreen was a really inspired one. And there’s not a hint of condescension in the way it observes their plight.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            The Witch is a remarkable movie and seriously one of my top 5 favorite horror movies of the decade so far. There’s no sense that we’re watching a fictional film. It’s the New England nightmare put to screen.

          • It’s one of my favorites of the decade full-stop. So intense and perfectly controlled and amazingly acted by everyone, even more so by the teenagers than the adults. Everyone involved refuses any detachment from what they’re doing, and it shows.

            Thinking about other films plunging into similar raw environments, Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights also left a deep impression on me recently as the extremely rare literary adaptation that pulls no punches in conveying what the world of its characters would actually have been like. On the other stylistic end is Marie Antoinette, which I just saw for the first time a couple weeks ago, with its use of modern songs and all that.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            The only reason I’d say The Witch isn’t just the best horror film of the millennium full stop is that we’re such a great time for horror that there are tons of contenders. And yes, that lack of detachment or sense that this is History with a capital H does not exist. No knowing nods to the future, no deprecating jokes, just controlled, gut churning dread and depiction of that period.

            I saw Wuthering Heights earlier this year and liked it – its not totally accurate to the novel (of course it cuts out the entire second half of the book and framing device as many versions do) but I think it has the strongest sense of the novel’s tone and atmosphere, especially by bathing the audience in sensual naturalism and showing how the violence and emotion of the characters is mirrored in the natural environment.

          • Son of Griff

            Horror is about the visceral dread of understanding that the conditions of our lives constitute an unspoken form of imprisonment, and speaks to a culture when perceived constraints on individualism permeate the culture at large. The violation of space within the aesthetics of the genre offers pleasure and terror at the realization of one’s confinement.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            This is exactly why you need to see The Witch posthaste. The main character in particular wrestles with how the moral and religious constraints of her family keeps her trapped within a particular series of roles to play, and much of the plot is centered around whether those constraints will worsen or be destroyed entirely. And Anna Taylor Joy gives a great, great performance.

          • Son of Griff

            I suspect that was the primary psychic motivation for the accusations in Salem to begin with. These events were not uncommon in New England, but what’s anomolous is that, in 1691, the authorities in Massachusetts actually took them seriously.

          • Son of Griff

            It’s been on my list, as I use Salem as a unit in my historical thinking seminars, and loathe the way that the witch trials are simply used as an analogy for reactionary, anti-liberal bias. such representations not only revise the past, but blunt the circumstances in which “witch hunts” on a more modern variety spring.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Did you read The Witches by Stacy Schiff? What’d you think?

          • Son of Griff

            I have not, and thanks for the recommendation

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Yeah, lemme know what you think. It’s a bit flawed because a lot of it is inherently speculation but much of it is pretty riveting.

          • pico79

            Just to provoke a bit: it’s not really unique to humanism, and there artists who’ve done this productively, too. After all, take something like the Oresteia: Aeschylus was centuries’ removed from the Trojan war, and his version of events is “really” about congratulating contemporary Athenians on the the moral rightness of their system of justice, an attitude completely foreign to whatever the real-life figures would likely have recognized. The reason we don’t feel as displaced by that inapt historical rewriting is that Aeschylus himself is so removed from us now that the difference barely registered. Will likely be the case that some films that annoy us now will be (if the species survives and anyone bothers) watched in ways entirely foreign to us, too.

      • pico79

        I think there’s a legit, unresolved dilemma in mainstream filmmaking between fidelity to the truth on the one hand, and over-adherence to screenwriting prescriptions (McKee, shallowly read Joseph Conrad) on the other, where the latter almost always wins out. So instead of a more deliciously complex Turing, we get a hero’s journey wrapped in platitudes (“the people no one imagines anything of…”, etc.) Certain screenwriters and producers will tell you that it’s necessary for molding reality into art, but that’s not even remotely true.

      • Son of Griff

        These distortions turn historical complexity into cheap melodramatic tricks. Bad history in the pursuit of bad storytelling always sucks.