• Drunk Napoleon

    Look I screwed up the post scheduling and it went up way too early and I guess it balances out that we didn’t have a ‘what did you watch’ at all on Friday

    anyway what did we watch

    • Drunk Napoleon

      LOST, Season Six, Episode Eight, “Recon”
      “I’m the smoke thing.”

      “Very insightful, coming from a dead man.”
      “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

      Smokey’s goal has always been to escape the island, but now he has a specific action: steal the Ajira plane and use that to escape. This changes the energy of the season again, but this time in a good way. This season was always about finding closure on these filthy beautiful assholes, and introducing the Temple mysteries had a kind of unpleasant oil-and-water effect by mashing up two entirely different tones together, like playing two random notes on a piano. Having the characters reach closure next to Smokey chasing a specific goal with a logical series of steps and a clear end-point means that we have two separate ‘winding down’ effects, so the two tones feels like a chord.

      (Hilariously, Smokey’s justification for lying to Claire is basically the reason his story now works: have a single action and a single goal, and you can always move forward)

      Hell, right next to that, you have the flashsideways showing the characters getting the catharsis of what they always really wanted in the healthiest possible manner, so we have three tones that are all distinct but merge into a single, clear tone, so we do legitimately have a chord. Even if the flashsideways hadn’t worked fully in the end, this episode alone justifies their use, because they give us the James/Miles buddy cop show we all deserve in these trying times. Alt-Miles brings out a lot of the flashsideways potential on his own; he’s less of an apathetic dick and more of a sincere moral player, and he drops references to the worldbuilding of the flashsideways (“my dad at the museum”) without it feeling forced.

      I remember talking about how the show made a big deal about being accused of being crazy; in that context, when Smokey opens up to Kate about his mother, it’s significant that he openly and derisively refers to both her and Claire as ‘crazy’. Everyone involved is doing an amazing job at keeping “Is Smokey capital-E Evil?” as an open question. Obviously, he’s killed quite a few people at this point, but – okay, this is hard to unpack. I think of Evil, and I think of inhuman and actively cancerous elements that destroy everything just with their presence. BOB from Twin Peaks is Evil. Walter White, despite being human, is Evil. Quite a few people call Smokey Evil, and he’s clearly inhuman, but I can’t make up my mind about whether he is Evil. This is the closest the show has come to tipping its hand, and it’s only that because I know the show so well at this point.

      Ownage: Claire attacks Kate, so Smokey grabs and slaps her. Alt-Jim owns a mirror.
      Book Club: Alt-James has Watership Down on his chest of drawers.

      The Sopranos, Season One, Episode Ten, “A Hit Is A Hit”
      “Hesh is the world’s sweetest guy. But I’ve heard his opinions on giving back pieces of Israel, I can only imagine what he’s gonna say about this shit.”

      “This, as far as I’m concerned, blows away Matchbox 20.”

      I’ve heard this is the worst episode, so I braced myself, and it’s not so much bad as it is I don’t quite get what the point is. I like Massive, a smart, savvy, possibly-sincere-but-probably-not gangster who has time to compose poetic ways of saying things in his head, but watching dumb people be racist and fuck up the creative process isn’t all that interesting; the only really interesting part is how Tony seems genuinely pleased with therapy and is walking around all smiles in general. The real MVP here though is Christopher, from gossiping about the Sopranos with Adriana to the discovery that he genuinely can’t solve problems without either drugs or violence.

      Interesting Todd Notes: Todd goes to the effort of ranking the seasons, an action that baffles me, especially coming from him. It apparently took Todd four watches to grasp that the lead singer of Visiting Day was a poseur. Todd was more enamoured of the golf scene than I was.
      Biggest Laugh: “We’ll take it from the top. We’ll use the ukeleles.”
      Ownage: Pauli headshots a guy. Christopher takes out a guy with his own guitar.

      LOST, Season Six, Episode Nine, “Ab Aeterno”
      “Does the offer still stand?”

      “He said you were the devil.”

      Here it is, by many accounts the last truly great episode of LOST, laying out Richard’s backstory, and in the process explaining the Black Rock and what happened to the statue, plus, you know, Smokey and Jacob’s conflict. LOST has implicitly crossed genres before, into crime thrillers of various subgenres (cop, criminal, and Korean mob) and scifi and fantasy, but this is the most explicit shift in genre the show ever did: Spanish period adventure, with even the music dropping into the genre. As much as I love the show’s stone soup approach to genre, explicitly shifting things up as undigested as this is extremely fun and I kind of wish it had gone for it more often.

      Nestor Carbonell’s performance holds this episode together, to the point that I believe that he alone gives this episode its reputation – like, it’s all good for a lot of reasons, but his emotions are what make the episode good to people who don’t give a shit about the things I give a shit about. I think this is another case of Prestige TV being good for actors in a way that movies have lost, because Richard really asks three things of Carbonell as an actor. There’s the 21st century professional business suit guy that Richard initially seems to be, and while I’m certain Carbonell has played a lot of different kinds of characters, that’s basically what he was typecast as around this time (I also remember his performance in The Dark Knight, not too far away from Richard’s initial characterisation).

      Here, he’s asked to play an 18th century Spanish peasant – another part of the genre shift, and something all the actors pull off, it’s just most spectacular with Carbonell – and interestingly, while they never break down into full-on ‘dudes’ a la Hurley, Smokey and Jacob definitely come off as slightly more formal 21st century men, separating them from Ricardo’s world the same way their performances separate them from the modern characters. It’s in the present day part of this episode that Richard becomes some third, more unique thing, a 21st century man with an 18th century emotion.

      Meanwhile, I spent half this episode wondering whether or not Smokey and Jacob’s conflict was really moral relativism vs moral absolutism (partly set off by Smokey describing Jacob the exact same way Dogen described Smokey and partly because Smokey’s goal is morally neutral while Jacob’s goal is always described in terms of good vs evil), but we get the revelation that Smokey is pure evil, the island is a cork keeping him trapped on the island, and Jacob keeps the cork there to prevent the world from being corrupted by his evil, and Smokey tries to argue that humans are inherently evil as a way of getting off the island, which makes me think that’s the wrong way of looking at it.

      Part of Jacob’s argument is that people can choose to be good, and that this choice would be meaningless if he forced anyone to do it (which is how it remains relevant to the plot and not just waffling for the sake of it), which I always found a convincing argument for three separate things:
      1. An explanation of God that allows for the existence of both free will and evil in the world.
      2. Conversely, a moral guideline for a world in which God does not exist – if there’s no reward for good or punishment for evil, then doing good has to be the reward in itself.
      3. A way to tolerate evil (or at least incorrectness) in the world. I spent a long time feeling responsible for the evil that happens in the world. Thinking of people not as Good or Evil but as people who make choices makes it easier to recognise the good and evil that I’m responsible for, which means I’m not weighed down by things I don’t need to be weighed down by.

      Ownage: The guy who buys Ricardo kills a few prisoners, then gets killed by Smokey. Isabella gets double-killed by Smokey. Jacob beats nine colours of shit out of Ricardo.

      The Sopranos, Season One, Episode Eleven, “Nobody Knows Anything”
      “Debbie, you got magic fingers. I bet you give a great handjob.”
      “Yeah, she does.”

      “A feeling of pending doom?”

      The plot has begun to boil over, and as a result the show has found a way to make the plotting really work. I previously positively compared episodes like “College” to Cowboy Bebop, in how it show combined one action from the past with one action here in the present. This resembles the other kind of plot, where a vestigial dramatic structure allows details and history to emerge – details about Makazian and Pussy – and Tony can recognise himself within these details. As a result, the tone of the story has finally become totally unique.

      Carmela takes on Lyvia this episode, and it’s a fucking Always Sunny scene in how strongly Lyvia holds onto her self-pity no matter what Carmela says.

      Tentative theory: naked women otherwise acting normal with no interest in sexy posing is hilarious. Jury is still out on naked men.

      Interesting Todd Notes: His description of the show’s trajectory and of tragedy is pretty much how wallflower said about The Shield, except for the ‘tragedy can never depress us’ part. Direct quote: The more that you create for yourself a view of how the world operates, the less likely you are to pull away from that view of the world. Change is possible. Change also requires you to shake up what you believe to be true, and most people aren’t willing to do that. This strikes me as profound. Possibly, I’m taking it the exact opposite way TVDW meant it. He takes a lot of meaning from how the show makes suicide not only a plausible action to take but the only reasonable action.
      Biggest Laugh: “I wouldn’t fuck one of these broads with your dick.”

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        There’s definitely a lot of Livia in Always Sunny and vice versa – its impossible to know how deep in denial Livia is about her self pity and downright malevolence or whether she’s just extremely calculating.

        One of my favorite runners of the first season is Dr. Melfi becoming alarmed about Livia’s behavior and Tony dismissing that because he can’t fathom that his parents were abnormal people. The show is very into denial and careful adjustment of facts – how any environment can seem okay to a person used to that world.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          That’s actually exactly what I was thinking about Livia at the end of the episode, when she’s telling Junior about Tony – does she actually know what she’s doing there (most likely) or is she passive aggressive, even to herself?

      • That first sentence from TODDDDDDDDDD!!!! is kinda prophetic, and contains something of a warning for creators and viewers. What happened both with The Sopranos and Todd’s writing was that over six seasons, both of them “created for themselves a view of how the world operates”–and the, um, operative part of that sentence is “the world.” Not a specific, acting character–not a Vic, a Claudette, a Dutch, a Shane–but a world where everyone is understood, everyone’s choices were already made, and therefore nothing can ever surprise us. That’s why, by the end of The Sopranos, I’d lost interest in the characters.

        There may be an inherent, unavoidable contradiction between fiction that explains and fiction that tells a story; the former relies on knowing everything, the latter relies on the tension between knowing everything and allowing things to happen–Aristotle’s inevitability and surprise. There’s something to be said in fiction for not trying to understand the setting and the motivations down to every last detail and instead letting chance affect the characters, and letting the characters surprise you.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          I feel like his last sentence works for this too – it definitely applies to Mad Men, which upended everything quite regularly, and it applies to characters within The Shield – Dutch, Claudette, Corinne, Shane, Julian, with Vic the reversal, someone who refused to drop the idea that he was the hero. I don’t know if it applies to the show, though.

          • Keep watching. It’s in the later seasons that the show gets really depressing (instead of tragic) and we all wanted to get TODDDDDDDDDDD!!!! some hot cocoa. (It wasn’t nearly as bad as his 2 Broke Girls reviews, where a lot of commenters were talking about staging an intervention before the creator of the show (Michael Patrick King, I think?) did that for us.)

          • Drunk Napoleon

            By ‘the show’, I meant The Shield. My gut reaction is that holding some things as true and following them as far as they can is how it gets its power.

          • Ah, got it, and completely agree. The Shield doesn’t know everything about its world, but like you said, it takes those few things it does know all the way. That’s drama.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            You know, the longer I sit on TOOOOOOOOOOODD‘s quote (and provided you change ‘most’ to ‘some’ and interpret it positively where TOOOOOOOOOODD!!!! meant it negatively), the more I feel it describes the positive things I took from The Shield. Change is possible, and it does require a willingness to shake up what you believe to be true, and we see what happens to everyone who does and doesn’t have that willingness.

          • Yessir, and you gotta have that part past the last comma. We need to see it. I have an extended comment about this late in the Sopranos reviews; I’ll let you get to it, but it’s an argument that got embedded in the Shield/Sopranos Scenic Route: don’t tell us characters can change, show it.

          • ZoeZ

            I now need a set of Strike Team tarot cards with “By ‘the show,’ I meant The Shield” written on them that we can toss down after making on-point criticisms of lesser dramas.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Midway through reading that comment, I thought you were gonna riff on “by the power of Grayskull!” somehow.

      • clytie

        “It apparently took Todd four watches to grasp that the lead singer of Visiting Day was a poseur.”

        That made me laugh.

    • The Wire, season 5, episodes 3 to 10 – game over. I tried to go into this season with a fresh mind but it definitely just isn’t as good as the other four. That said, there’s a lot of wonderful stuff in it and some of the characters get perfect endings (notably Bubbles). The “circle of life” stuff at the end gives mixed results – as somebody said weeks ago, Sydnor becoming the new McNulty just doesn’t ring true at all, but Michael’s ending is oddly satisfying and Dukie’s is (inevitably) heartbreaking. There’s some interesting stuff in the serial killer plot (it peaks early, when Bunk drafts in Lester to talk some sense into McNulty, but gets the exact opposite response) but it definitely feels like it requires a bigger suspension of disbelief than pretty much everything else in the series. The weirdest bit of this season is Marlo going to the Antilles to look at his own money though – it’s basically fitting for the character but feels deeply strange to suddenly be so far outside of Baltimore! All in all though, we do get to finally understand the main, overriding point of the whole show: “Fuck Scott Templeton”.

      Other great bits from this season: the brief scene of Omar being a friend to all children before he gets dragged back into the shit, Michael, Dukie and Bug going for a family day out, McNulty’s “wake”, and many parts of Clay Davis’ infuriating story – the way he puts his game face back on for the press after emerging from the grand jury hearing is a DEEPLY impressive bit of acting.

      Love in the Afternoon – I like Billy Wilder, I like Audrey Hepburn, I love their other film together (Sabrina), so imagine my disappointment when this was extremely mediocre. A classic example of the romantic comedy where the romance is impossible to care about – even if Hepburn and Gary “Old” Cooper had much chemistry, he’s playing such a terrible character that I had absolutely no interest in them ending up together. There are a few good moments along the way (largely relating to Cooper’s personal orchestra and Hepburn’s private detective father) but none of it hangs together. Definitely the weakest Wilder film I’ve seen.
      Is anyone from The Wire in it? No, it’s from 1957.

      Inside Man – the perfect film to watch when suffering from Wire Withdrawal. A slick bank robbery thriller with some classy Spike Lee directorial flair (plus a few classic bits of Spike Lee heavy-handed social commentary, but I’m OK with that) and some good performances, especially from Denzel. I really enjoyed the twists and turns in the plot – some of them feel like they’d fall apart if given more than a few seconds consideration but when the ride is this entertaining I’m inclined not to mind.
      Is anyone from The Wire in it? YES! Ziggy! AND the judge that McNulty goes to when he needs help! Also Denzel says “sheeeeeeeeeit” at one point and I almost cheered.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        In season one, Landsman observes that part of what made McNulty who he is is that when he was coming up as a detective, he was ‘the smartest fuck in the room’, which gave him a superiority complex. If you tilt your head and squint, you can kinda see that Sydnor is the smartest fuck left standing, but it’s still a huge stretch.

        The thing that makes the serial killer plot not work for me is that for 90% of the season, it has fuck-all to do with anything. Hamsterdam was absurd, but it came back on most of the characters almost immediately. McNulty’s serial killer plot doesn’t mean much to anyone outside the detail and the newspaper room.

        Omar coming back was the equivalent of Don ripping out his notebook in Mad Men, an enraging act that had me yelling “You dumb motherfucker!” at the screen. The laws of tragedy, the laws of storytelling, the laws of the game, Omar’s personal sensibility; all of this betrayed in one fell swoop (I mean this all in a good way). Season five burns off all the last of the nobility of any of these people (except Bunk).

        • Haha yeah, Bunk’s furious pride about actually doing police work is amazing.

          The serial killer plot has enough good moments that I’m happy to forgive it most of its sins – McNulty straight-up telling Templeton the facts because “you’re as full of shit as I am” is wonderful. I don’t think it really works as a whole, but I think they probably did make it work as well as it really ever could have.

          I think Sydnor is one of the worst characters in the whole show. He just never gets to display any kind of personality, really. I’d have been perfectly happy if the ending just completely ignored him and showed us something better, like… I don’t know… Cutty getting an award for “best gym”. Or Cedric finding an excuse to take his shirt off in the courtroom.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            His utter rage at what’s going on is a wonderful salve for, uh, what’s going on. As unrealistic and nonsensical as it is, I do also love the scene with the profiler, because it’s one of those scenes that gets funnier the longer it goes.

            “Your honour, I’d like to present as evidence exhibit A: these guns.”

          • The Ploughman

            [mesmerized] “I’ll allow it.”

          • Miller

            Sydnor has a nice moment in Season 4 when, after a lot of misgivings about the timing, he still subpoenas Davis with some fine polite snark and throws down his name without hesitation – that’s a glimpse of a similar McNultyish vibe coming through. I don’t think the character is bad, he’s just never given much of a chance to have these moments.

          • I guess I should have said he’s one of my least favourite characters, rather than “worst”. There are background characters or people who turn up for one episode that leave more of an impression than he does – it’s no coincidence that, when I started my rewatch, he was the first character that I ran into and didn’t remember at all.

          • The Ploughman

            Yeah, if they were going to go so far as to make him McNulty 2.0, I shouldn’t have had a “wait, who is he again?” moment when they made this clear.

        • Miller

          Hamsterdam, especially its ending when Royce is showing his one moment of leadership and actually considering it as policy, is tragedy. The serial killer plot is farce. It works for me as being ridiculous, and the fact that no one gets hurt gives that ridiculousnous edge.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            The serial killer plot is definitely farcical, but it works for me not as a matter of realism but as a matter of character: Whether or not something like that would hold up to scrutiny for more than a few days, the idea that a drunken and despondent McNulty, already prone to going rogue to begin with, would cook that up as a solution to his problems, after everything we’ve seen in the first four seasons of how the institution of policing grinds up good police and grinds good cases to a halt (to say nothing about what we’ve seen of McNulty as a drunken, self-destructive fuckup), absolutely rings true to me.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            That’s actually also where it falls a little down for me. McNulty had straightened up and started to fly right through season four, and while I buy that he’d fall off the wagon, it felt like a betrayal of the character to have him fall that fast and that hard. Like he made it, what, a week?

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Well, I think that was a direct reaction to Bodie’s death and his knowledge of his role in it.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Hmm, that’s true. I;ll keep that in mind when I get back to it.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            If nothing else, it seems like the kind of event that would definitely send a guy like McNulty over the horizon of despair– an alcoholic who tries to straighten up and fly right and instead has it blow up in his face like that?

          • Miller

            McNulty’s addictions feed on each other, when he goes back to the one of major crimes murder policing – of living goals rather than living life – the other one follows hard.

          • Miller

            Yes, absolutely.

      • Denzel saying, “I bet you can catch a cab, though” was completely improvised, and the quick cut after they crack up is to hide Lee laughing off-camera.

      • The Ploughman

        Between that and Isiah Whitlock’s hilarious cameo in Chi-raq, Lee must be a big fan.

        • Yeah, I’m thinking so. I was looking at the various filmographies of Wire actors and a lot of them have cropped up in Lee’s films – James Ransone, Isiah Whitlock, Clarke Peters, Lance Reddick…

    • lgauge

      [Including Thursday since we didn’t do this on Friday, as you note]

      The Magic Flute: Probing the tensions between film and theater.

      This sure is a strange beast. On the one hand it’s so very much exactly opera and on the other hand it breaks from that format over and over in ways both small and large. I’m not familiar with the source material, but I assume this is a fairly straight adaptation/production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. It certainly looks and sounds like that, first and foremost being performed on a stage with very theatrical sets and costumes and also with how the lines (though translated to Swedish) sound. The obvious break from simply being a recording of a stage performance (besides the overture, which I’ll return to below) is the fact that the camera is usually as close (and at such an angle) as you would expect if this were an ordinary film adaptation. In fact, while being both a recorded performance and a film adaptation, it is also neither. A weird synthesis that seems to probe at what makes a film a film and what makes theater theater and how these two aspects converse with each other. Contained within this exercise is also a Brechtian tension making itself known from time to time. Sometimes the film makes the theater more Brechtian, as when the camera films backstage or behind sets (like when characters off-stage talk to characters on-stage), showing us the “seams” in a way the limited POV of a theater audience wouldn’t be privy to. On the other hand, the theater certainly makes the film more Brechtian in many obvious ways (like we have seen in a number of other films). So we are never truly allowed to forget we are watching theater (opera) while simultaneously never truly allowed to forget we are watching a film made out of a stage performance.

      I can’t speak to the extent to which this is a “good” version of the original opera, though I certainly enjoyed myself well enough with the story, characters and performances. As far as the role of the camera and editing goes, the obvious advantage is being able to get close-ups of the more tense and emotional moments (no surprise that Bergman would do that) and the ability to cut away from or cut past certain natural waiting periods that the theatrical experience would require. The use of close-ups (and also more interesting lighting) becomes much more prominent in the second half, where we get several moments of a more pure, classical Bergmanian psychology.

      The film begins with an overture that could have made for a very interesting short film on its own. While the overture music plays, we see different members of the “audience” who are supposedly watching the performance we are about to see. There is one young girl we return to a lot (who we also cut away to occasionally during the rest of the film), but otherwise the film keeps cutting back and forth in an increasingly rapid montage of faces. Interestingly enough, the assembled group is surprisingly diverse for Sweden in the mid 70s (even if that does make the dark face make-up of the actors playing the Moors even more unfortunate). While being another way to emphasize the theatrical aspect of the film (and also an excuse for Bergman to continue his fascination with the human face), there is something else going on too. There is a particular texture to this opening that I haven’t yet been able to decode, but which fascinates me nonetheless.

      The last sentence describes reasonably well how I feel about the whole film. In general I enjoy the surface details and the small things Bergman does with the camera to enhance certain scenes and I do find the conceptual level of this film very interesting. However, it is ultimately a tad too academic, yielding an intellectual fascination without quite landing emotionally the way Bergman’s best work does. It’s still very good and while I’m glad he did this as an experiment, it does all in all seem like a lesser work. As much as I love Bergman the director, I love Bergman the screenwriter almost as much and he is naturally missing in this case. As someone so closely tied to the theater, I’m glad he got to do something like this though. Rivette always found it more fruitful to make cinema about the theater (rather than making cinema about cinema) and this certainly pushes that to the extreme in some ways. As a piece of work to elucidate various aspects of cinema and theater — the ways they oppose, how they are the same, how the two interact and so on — this is a significant work. So it’s too bad that the film as a whole can’t quite live up to that ambition.

      Pickup on South Street: Possesses an admirable roughness and killer dialogue, but the scenario is a bit rote. Fuller directs it well, but it’s not enough to make this a standout film. I do wonder to what extent the pickpocketing scenes were an inspiration for Bresson’s Pickpocket though. There’s certainly a striking similarity, yet Bresson’s overall elegance in the how he approaches it (choreography, shot selection, cuts) is the superior version for sure. I do appreciate the more tragic aspects of the story, but the “rather dead than red” aspect hasn’t aged very well. You can certainly make the argument that the film is less into those questions than its characters, but regardless it does come off with all the elegance and subtlety of an 80s or 90s Hollywood action flick where Soviets or Russians are the bad guys.

      The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover: What if sex and food were kind of gross?

      I guess when a film opens with an elegantly composed wide shot that narrows into a scene of a guy being smeared in literal shit and peed on you know what you’re in for. Greenaway’s appetite for the grotesque and macabre knows no bounds, nor does his love of the baroque and the ridiculous sumptuousness of his colors. It does overstep into excess on occasion I’d say, but for the most part it’s so extremely well done and so disturbing that I’m as enraptured and impressed as I am revolted. Mirren looks about as good in this as anyone ever has on screen though you rarely if ever get to appreciate that due to the endless cycle of cruelty and vileness. At the center of the latter is of course Gambon’s Albert, who’s just about the most nightmarishly loathsome and repugnant distillation of a particular kind of ugly, uncultured bourgeois Englishness I’ve ever seen. Greenaway’s attention to detail is of course everything. The way he delineates the space of the restaurant by lateral tracking shots and abrupt changes in both overall production design and color (which insanely enough is reflected in items of clothing that for some characters actually change color as they move from room to room) is so controlled and immaculate you’d never suspect such tools could be used in service of such a disgusting ambition. Along with La Grande Bouffe, this is a great entry in the canon of films that you should watch if you’d like some motivation to never eat anything again. As a bonus, the many ways sex and naked bodies are used here will put your sex drive in a nice slumber as well. It’s a fantastic film, make no mistake, but it’s really gross.

      Dyketactics (short, Barbara Hammer): Completely disintegrates the boundary between community, body and sexuality.

      Superdyke Meets Madame X (short, Barbara Hammer): This is an amazing mix of unpolished sexuality, experimental (video) aesthetics, discussions of art and cinema and an extremely alive portrait of two people. As radical (at least for its time) in imagery as in its content. Hard to find the words to describe this, but it’s incredibly well done.

      At Berkeley: It’s hard not to be impressed by Wiseman’s mammoth of a film and the scope of the project itself. Though watching this for the first time shortly after having seen Ex Libris, I can’t help but feel like the latter film is a better version of what Wiseman does here in terms of both form and content. Maybe that’s because I found the goings on in the New York Public Library system more interesting in its sprawl and the completeness of its ecosystem. However I do also think that the way Wiseman shot and edited his most recent film also does more to construct a more interesting narrative and a more interesting exploration of both characters and place. With At Berkey I feel like I’m watching well curated footage, but it doesn’t use the medium to really say something as impressively as Ex Libris does. I can imagine seeing them further apart in time (and/or in reversed, which is to say release, order) might have made me look more favorably on this film (which I did like a lot to be fair) in comparison to the other one. Certainly the 4 hour running time didn’t help in that regard. Still, if anyone wanted to get a good feel of what goes on at Berkeley, from its class rooms to its maintenance, from its student movements to its top level management, it’s hard to imagine a better place to start.

      • Pickup on South Street is one of my favourite noirs, but then I also like 80s and 90s Hollywood action flicks where Soviets or Russians are the bad guys, so you might be onto something there.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        I love Cook, Thief, Wife, Love so very much and I believe it has the funniest end line of any movie I’ve seen. I literally laughed hysterically for five straight minutes after that (my roommates must have been alarmed).

      • Son of Griff

        The anti-communism stuff in PICKUP is an unfortunate distraction, and it has upset some people I know whose grandparents were caught up in the blacklist. The film takes aim at ultra-individualism and professes to support a certain honor among a community of thieves, a mythic view of criminality that transcends a black-and-white literalist reading of the Cold War references peppered throughout it. According to some sources the French Communist Party had the dubbing altered in their native country to make the criminal conspiracy tied to diamond smuggling. That didn’t hurt the picture’s reputation with the Cashiers crowd.

    • Babalugats

      Sid And Nancy – Since Gary Oldman is about to win an Oscar for this, I figured it was time to finally knock it off my list. I have to say, I’m pretty underwhelmed. This is the story of what happens when the two worst people in the world find eachother. I found lots of individual scenes to be very effective. Oldman performing My Way, or a scene where Sid and Nancy watch their hotel room slowly catch on fire, to wasted to care, are particular standouts. But this is a long time to spend with these characters. Junkies are the fucking worst. Oldman gives a good performance, but my opinion of him hasn’t changed, and I don’t think he deserved an Oscar for it. Chloe Webb is better in one the most thankless performance I’ve ever seen. Although both actors are really to old for this. These two were 20 years old when Nancy died. They were teenagers. Aging them even a few years fundamentally changes the story.

      Also, how crazy is it that Courtney Love is in this? Spooky stuff.

      Ingrid Goes West – Has anybody seen this? I’d like to hear your thoughts on that ending.

      Movies like this live and die by their endings. I liked everything leading up to it. Aubrey Plaza is great in the lead, Elizabeth Olson reminds everyone why we were all excited about her pre-Disney, and Ice Cube’s son has that movie star charisma. (Kurt Russell’s son doesn’t, but works in the role he’s in.) The story is smart, funny, and tense. And it does a good job weaving through genres without ever losing sight of its character’s humanity. Again, Plaza is really excellent here, being funny, frightening, sympathetic, repellant, relatable, and pathetic often all at the same time. But that ending just doesn’t work for me. The whole movie is building to something, and it’s just- not there. You need that “Rupert Pupkin on stage” moment, and we don’t get it.

      So, this movie is basically Birdman. No, wait, hear me out! A delusional protagonist wrestles with their ego as everyone around them discusses issues of celebrity, authenticity, and Batman, before finally succumbing to their depression and attempting suicide. This attempt fails and they wake up in a hospital room, and are informed that their suicide attempt has granted them the fame they’ve been seeking. In Birdman, there’s a degree of irony here. Keaton finds himself trapped back in the Birdman mask and now chained to his theater role for many many years. And both his and his daughter’s reaction to his reignited celebrity (as expressed through the Bird-powers) draw into question their motivations throughout the film. In Ingrid Goes West her suicide connects with people because it’s an authentic moment (and it is, unlike in Birdman where it’s perceived as an accident) and Ingrid gets everything she wants. Except that she hasn’t been pursuing fame, she’s been pursuing Olson’s character. Notice that she doesn’t care at all about the slightly more famous Instagram model that Olson is sucking up to. To go back to King of Comedy, Ingrid isn’t Rupert, using Olson as a springboard to greater fame, she’s Masha, where the relationship itself is the end goal. That movie wouldn’t have worked if it ended with Masha getting a book deal. Also, kind of glamorizes suicide.

      • DJ JD

        I haven’t seen Ingrid Goes West, but I felt the same way you did about Sid and Nancy: they’re too old and if specific scenes really stuck with me, I can’t say I was head-over-heels in love with the overall movie. Back when I saw it, I knew that it was a Very Good Movie so I figured I was basically a heathen for always wanting to watch Endless Summer Part Two again instead of it, but…yeah.

      • clytie

        Ingrid Goes West is on Hulu for anyone that wants to see it.

        I’m planning on watching it soon.

    • Glorbes

      Over the past few days…

      Finished up season one of The Detectorists. This is a really great show. It’s low key, funny, sad, and quite gentle and affectionate towards its characters. Starting in on season 2!

      King Kong Escapes! – Wild and crazy Toho Kong movie, with a Mechani-Kong versus King Kong battle on Tokyo Tower at the end! The villain is a cape-wearing weirdo named Dr. Who! Also, Rhodes Reason cuts a heroic meathead frame, and he apparently accepted the acting job for the paid trip to Japan. Action packed, with lots of great optical effects and awesome miniatures. The Kong costume is pretty terrible though.

      Taking of Pelham One Two Three – Much like Sorcerer, I am currently evangelizing this movie with friends who haven’t seen it, and it was a big hit (because it’s awesome).

      The Omega Man – My wife had never seen this or Soylent Green, so we’re going on a mini-Hestonathon, starting with this one. It’s enjoyable and weird, but the score robs some key scenes of tension. Heston is shirtless an awful lot in it though, which is kind of like watching your meaty, grimacing uncle cut the grass on a hot day. Anyway, it’s a Laser Age classic that I have a lot of affection for.

      • DJ JD

        I still remember the moment I realized Young Muscley Heston was Actually Sexy and not, like, taking off his shirt for reasons I didn’t understand. I did that thing I think a lot of people do, where I started out seeing what they were making closer my time period and then had to get old enough to get curious about the earlier stuff, and there this this problem with seeing people’s careers in reverse: you see the stuff that they built their career on last.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        Sure, the ape costume in King Kong Escapes is pretty ratty (better than King Kong Vs. Godzilla, though), but the design of the Mecha-Kong is amazing.

        • Glorbes


      • The Ploughman

        Pelham is so fucking great. Just had to reinforce that and add some New York workman profanity.

        • Glorbes

          I find myself saying “shaddup” and “willya?” sometimes because of this movie.

        • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

          You can add a “not for nothing” in there too. “Oh! Not for nothing, but Pelham is fucking great over there.”

      • Miller

        Yay Detectorists! The first season ends on a lovely note. And speaking of endings, Pelham’s is pretty great too.

    • DJ JD

      The Bourne Legacy – This movie only gets better and better for me on rewatches. I initially took it as something of a course correction, if not an outright rebuke, of the way the other movies in the series left Bourne not just surviving but overwhelmingly annihilating all opposition in his path, impossibly awesome and possessed of not one but two beautiful, charming women devoted to him (which is pretty good for an unemployed murderhobo with severe amnesia, if you stop to think about it.)

      The thing is, I really enjoyed the escapism of the previous movies, because they bothered to show Bourne working at it: he doesn’t just magically appear outside Pam Landy’s window to make her go all WHAAA?, he has to spend a few hours chasing her down in ways that show his resourcefulness and single-minded intensity. So I was a bit cool to this movie at first. But daaang if it hasn’t grown on me: the characters are given far more believable motivations that drive them, at the tip of a spear, to keep moving and trying as hard as they can. The villains “win” in the sense that the soul-crushing machine starts to chew up the whistleblowers, which is sadly true to life, and our heroes survive by just disappearing on a fishing boat, if an unusually cool-looking one. Once I recalibrated my expectations – there’s that thing about not feeling what I expected the movie to make me feel – I find that this is my favorite movie in the series by a wide margin.

      Winter Olympics 2018 – Right, so the whole One Korea thing makes for some nice feelgoods, but it sure doesn’t help their women play cohesive, effective ice hockey. Ouch.

      Actually, this whole One Korea thing is really creeping me out. There was a camera shot of an empty stadium – a few fans lingered but the game was long since over – and these four squads of young Korean women all dressed in red were doing this coordinated “yay One Korea” cheerleading routine, evenly spaced around the arena. The image was a nicely poetic snapshot of coercive propaganda missing the point entirely, and it will probably stick with me for awhile. I get that South Koreans have understandably complicated thoughts about the idea of unifying with North Korea, but if I’m not thrilled by Trump’s bombast (which I ain’t, for the record), N. Korea is still an insane military-industrial complex that can’t barely feed its own people, right? I mean, what is going on with all the warm fuzzy feelgoods here?

      Teen Titans Go – The original DCAU Teen Titans show was something of a fervent guilty pleasure for me when it first aired, which is to say that I knew it was aimed more at my demographic (err…at the time) than it might’ve seemed but I was still embarrassed at how much I liked it. I liked it enough to not really watch this when it came out, but then my four-year-old more or less fell in love with this show and I have to admit that he has a point. This isn’t more DCAU Teen Titans but it is some top-notch anarchic humor in the Looney Tunes / Eek the Cat vein, and I have come to really enjoy it. It seems like it hasn’t been getting the love it deserves, and I highly recommend it.



      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Teen Titans GO is just a weird experience for me after being a fan of the first, way more serious series. It’s like being really into Airport as a kid then seeing Airplane!

        • DJ JD

          Yeah, that threw me hard, too, and if I think the “protest/boycott” fans are being silly, I do see their point. I loved the earlier series but I really had to figure out how to appreciate this one on its own to enjoy it. It’s phenomenal for what it is, but it’s about as diametrically opposed to its source material as you can get.

          • Glorbes

            That’s like hating Batman: The Brave and the Bold because it isn’t Batman: The Animated Series. They have two different objectives, and are finding new angles to work with the same material.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Look its not a logical position, it just feels…strange to me.

    • Bhammer100

      Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation

      After watching the trailer for the next Mission Impossible movie (which looks badass – it is crazy how much more intimidating Henry Cavill looks in this compared to him as Superman), I realized I haven’t seen the last two. I think it is easy to look at this franchise as the films where Tom Cruise does some crazy stunt to promote the movie. Climbing the Dubai tower. Hanging onto the side of a fucking plane as it takes off. Jumping across buildings. But I think that would take something away from this franchise. These last two were really fun. Ghost Protocol was fun but I think they kind of blew their load with the Dubai scene and they didn’t really have anything as iconic after that. And the villain was kind of forgettable and bland.

      But Rouge Nation? Holy hell, that movie is AWESOME! It might have been a little too long because I was exhausted by the end of it (although I think that says more about the action than the film). And it gets a little repetitive where nobody believes Tom Cruise so he has to do it by himself. They did that in the last movie. But the story was really mysterious and it did a great job at sucking me into the story as soon as possible (I think it was a great idea to turn the “Do you accept the mission” trope upside down). The villain was creepy. The characters were compelling (I had heard a lot about Rebecca Ferguson’s character and she definitely lived up to expectations). And all the action beats where great and each one was different and had their own feel and challenges. I’m not a action movie critic, but I think this is as close to a perfect action movie you can get.

      • Babalugats

        Rouge Nation is great. It reminds me of a better era of blockbusters. Where the plot only exists to get you from one set piece to the next, but it works because they’re well executed interesting set pieces, and you have a genuinely charismatic movie star in the lead.

        I also love any movie that ends with the heroes tricking the bad guy into walking into a big box, and then just loading it into the back of a police van. It’s very Scooby-Doo

      • The Ploughman

        Totally agreed, other than Rouge Nation makes one stumble that Ghost Protocol smartly avoids, which is relying on those stupid masks for a twist yet again.

      • Miller

        Water sequence in Rogue Nation > plane sequence in Rogue Nation. McQuarrie knows his shit.

        • The Ploughman

          Plus the opera house in between! Some of the best and clearest use of space in an action movie I’d seen in a while.

      • Am I alone in thinking the first M:I is the best?

        • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

          You’re not alone.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Rome up to episode 6 of the last season so I’ve got like four episodes left? I think my issues with the series as a whole are that at worst it doesn’t have a central theme and is just a telling of significant events for its characters. At best though its a good tragedy about the downfall of an entire democracy, of a way of thinking that is destroyed by powerful men looking for more power and how chillingly natural that feels. Brutus, Cassius, and Cicero (look this is a 2000 year old spoiler) all die and it feels strikingly heartbreaking to me. These are deeply imperfect men – Cicero historically was something of a coward – but they die with their boots on so to speak, and Brutus embracing Cassius’ body made me want to weep. They die in the pursuit of ideals where Antony and Octavian win pursuing political power, and that’s probably the biggest statement Rome can make at this point. I’m not totally surprised this got cancelled then – it doesn’t have the cohesion of Game of Thrones nor the universality. Spectacle yes, coherence no.

      Predator – Speaking of coherence! You say “stupid”, I say “elemental”. I love this movie so much. It’s one where the arc isn’t the hero becoming himself and being better than the villain, it’s delving into the primal part of his personality and being a better opponent. Its like it was written by a warrior poet.

      Tried watching Dog Eat Dog and gave up super quick. Watched a smattering of Corporate, Another Period and more season One Cheers. Boy, the episode where the Cheers straight dudes want the gays thrown out of the bar is…weird in tone, but the show is clearly on Diane’s side and the writing has never been more eloquent about the bar ethos than when Sam says Cheers will never be a place people aren’t welcome in. That’s a working class egalitarianism I can cheer on.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        Predator is the best “America healing from Vietnam by making movies rewriting it into a victory” movie of all time. But let’s get into a conversation about dude’s physiques.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Napoleon, in body mass ALONE…

        • DJ JD

          I love the video game Broforce but I have to admit that they made the movie first and the game second on that one.

        • Glorbes

          I feel like I’d have a hard time relating to the men in Predator.

          • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

            I have an easier time relating to the Predator because I also have a face that looks like an angry vagina. Don’t believe me? Here’s my LinkedIn profile picture. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ae6494824b9d09ae94179ff605fcd416908359097e8f8e0c8d0a48aa55cece7a.jpg

          • Miller

            I call bullshit – no way the galaxy’s most advanced, ruthless species is still using LinkedIn.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            “Hes on Linkedin Lemon, he might as well be dead.”

          • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

            Like North Korea the Predators spend a disproportionate amount of their gross domestic product on the military, so they’re a little behind when it comes to social media. You are gonna get so blasted on their MySpace page.

          • “If it bleeds… we can recruit it.”

        • Bhammer100
      • DJ JD

        Not to unfairly appropriate your comment here, but Predator not being “stupid” but “elemental” is pretty close to why I defend Mission Impossible 2 when the subject comes up. Yes, it’s an opera where the soundtrack eventually collapses to all-electric-guitars, Idiocracy-like. But if you accept that, there’s some amazing swooning-opera moments in there, and they’re delivered with a deceptive elegance.

      • ZoeZ

        The sense of tragedy Rome has is maybe its best quality, with the second-best being that it genuinely does treat the past as a different country: its characters really don’t have modern sensibilities, and I like that. But yeah, it’s often a huge mess, and its second season is a crammed “we’re going to get cancelled so FIRE EVERYTHING” ambitious failure. Falls largely under the category of “I like this, but I don’t know that it’s good.”

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Yeah, that’s pretty much how I feel about it. I’ve mentioned how I appreciate its “so it goes in ancient Rome” morality and the tragedy. But the female roles have really suffered this season except for Atia (she’s the only one who really gets to have any complexity because her motivations and actions are so mixed) and they really are throwing everything at you. Crime bosses sanctioned by the state because corruption is permanent? Excellent. Vorenus being a crime boss? Wha?

          FWIW I’ve really come to appreciate Tobias Menzies as Brutus. I’ve always liked him in other shows but he’s quietly devastating in this one.

      • Glorbes

        Predator being compared to a work of poetry is my favourite thing today, because it is so true.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          It absolutely is.

        • Miller

          so much depends

          a buff com-

          glazed with mud

          under the space

          • Glorbes


    • ZoeZ

      Lady Macbeth: This repeatedly, if not entirely, dodges some of the reductive simplicity historical films get into about who is right, who is wrong, and who is deserving of our sympathy and attention. Pugh’s passionate, cold-eyed performance is genuinely terrific, and the step-by-step slide into tragedy is suitably terrifying and cathartic.

      Grand Piano: This, on the other hand, is dumb. So very dumb. It’s a premise in search of a writer who understands plotting–Cusack’s decision to go with this particular scheme is, again, utterly dumb–tension, realism, characterization… really anything. It’s a weirdly inept early effort from Chazelle, with none of his strengths but at least one of his notable weaknesses, which is to say that the female characters here are all underwritten and that the exit of one of them is almost hideously mean-spirited. Terrible, F.

      The Ritual: New Netflix horror movie! I have not read the book this is based on, but I’ve read and liked other things by Nevill, and this was a great cure for the lagging stupidity of Grand Piano. There isn’t much here that’s surprising, aside from a few “things happen more quickly than you would expect” bits of pacing that work very well, but this Deliverance meets The Descent meets The Blair Witch Project little film is consistently well-executed, with good scares and sympathetic, subtle characterization.

      • Grand Piano is exactly the kind of high-concept ridiculousness that I find absolutely irrestible. It is SO stupid but it just made me grin all the way through. I liked it more than Whiplash, and I apologise for nothing. Nothing!

        • This. Grand Piano is my type of high wire neo-Giallo with style for miles. Sure, it strung up any semblance of intelligence, realism, believability, characterization, or plot…but I challenge that, once you let go of those wanton needs as it so obviously wants you to do, it can be incredibly tense in the moments.

          • Miller

            I think that obviousness is the key, I don’t know how Chazelle intended his script to be performed but it is extremely clear that Mira is using it as a jumping-off point to get nuts as opposed to any statement on art (which the story comes back to at the end).

        • Miller

          Yes! Grand Piano plays (ho HO) the competitive musician stuff at ludicrous levels, which is where it belongs, while Whiplash makes it intense but misses the mark entirely on the music itself, which it tries to play straight. Solo piano instead of group drums helps a lot here. And that dispatch of a female character is so nasty but that cut! Also, so much love for Alex Winter as one of my favorite types, Second Banana Who Gets Shit Done And Is Tired Of His Boss’s Shit.

        • Hells yeah. This movie is awesome, and I also liked it more than Whiplash. It’s like a feature-length, live-action Daffy Duck cartoon.

    • The 39 Steps and The Most Dangerous Game – 1930s thriller double feature. Y’know, these films are about 80 years old, yet they’re more exciting than a bunch of the blockbusters from today. Game has a slower start, but once they start moving, it’s non-stop forward momentum. Also fun was seeing so many of Hitch’s pet themes and tropes manifesting so early.

      • DJ JD

        Not much to add except that if you haven’t seen this already, you should:


      • Glorbes

        I love The Most Dangerous Game. Leslie Banks has one hell of a glare.

      • pico

        There are no real technical fireworks in the scene, but Hannay’s quick-thinking political speech is one of my very favorite moments in all of Hitchcock. And because of this movie, I also sometimes stumble over whether to be lead up or down the garden path.

    • Star Trek – Return to Tomorrow: Way back when, this was the last episode of TOS I managed to watch in reruns (since reruns were shown in random order and I think the scheduler at WPIX didn’t care for this one). The first time I saw it, I was utterly bored. This time, I was merely unimpressed with a plotline that I think existed solely to let Shatner and Nimoy play different characters. There is also a Kirk speech I didn’t remember that is apparently fairly well known, the “Risk Is Our Business” moment. It’s a pretty good speech, but it goes on too long and the camera steadily moving closer to his face doesn’t help. Notable also for Diana Muldaur’s first appearance on TOS.

      Two episodes of Monk – Nothing outstanding, but a focus on Sharona’s relationship with her ex-husband and Monk’s reaction to this works very well and without a lot of the histrionics that sometimes turn the Monk-Sharona team into something more cartoonish.

      • Glorbes

        Yeah, Return to Tomorrow is a much-loved episode that does nothing for me. I feel that way about The Trouble With Tribbles as well.

        • I had no idea Return to Tomorrow was beloved. It’s not like it ever lands in a Trek Top Five list.

          • Glorbes

            My personal under-appreciated favourite is A Taste of Armageddon. It rarely gets listed as one of the best, but I think it’s an exciting and chilling story. It also has Scotty being awesome, Kirk gives a great speech, and Spock is extra cool at several points.

          • Watching TOS for the first time now, and that was a great ep. Interesting to see Kirk be so cold-blooded.

          • Glorbes

            And he really doesn’t give a shit about meddling in the affairs of other planets.

          • I can’t decide if I like the The Prime Directive. It seems like such a good idea, to live and let live, but then what if interference is necessary or beneficial? Do other captains ignore it, too, or do they go full Kirk?

          • Glorbes

            It’s more of a guiding principle, really.

          • DJ JD

            I remember getting irritated that Voyager went all-in on photonic life forms (or whatever that was) instead of getting a lot more serious about the Prime Directive. I thought the idea was a super interesting one–but almost certainly far more ugly in its implications than they ever showed. They always gave them an “out”, at least dramatically, on TNG: they never offered the counterargument that The Prime Directive could be a calloused, unwise or otherwise immoral line to take. The show only allowed for framing a morality on those terms because the Federation was a) basically in charge of its own space and b) impossibly benevolent, which were really two massively questionable assumptions to start with. There was a lot of room for exploration of the theme, but the show’s writers seemed to think they’d reached the bottom of the well and that it was time to move on.

          • I’m a big fan of the Culture novels, and the Culture is similar to the Federation in many ways, but they have a department – Special Circumstances – whose job is to ensure the survival of the Culture through any means necessary. Terrorism, espionage, guerrilla warfare, anything. It’s a look at the cost of maintaining a benevolent post-scarcity civilization. I like Star Trek, but it really makes me want more Culture novels.

          • Picard seems a lot more inclined to follow the rules, but inevitably ends up in situations where he does contortions to bend or break them more than Kirk ever did. (There was a novel that took the leap of having Kirk actually say “I never did like the Prime Directive” and that really seemed honest. I think Picard truly believes, but that the nature of the shows is designed to make hash of the rules.)

          • I can fully believe that Picard is the True Believer of the two. He’s practically Lawful Good personified.

          • “We won’t kill today” is my favorite Kirk speech. And the flavor of the episode works well, or at least better than other 60s metaphor episodes.

    • Having watched 470 shorts (or 122 hours) in 8 weeks, I just want to say that sometimes I wish filmmakers would go to a therapist instead of making a movie.

      • DJ JD

        Replying as a second upvote because I can’t even imagine, and I’ve seen some things.

      • The Ploughman

        Do you need to make a short film to cope with the experience?

        • I’ll just watch the Ludovico sequence of A Clockwork Orange again.

        • Miller

          Julius dies while watching short films, returns as a besheeted ghost who haunts the movie theater, silently watching more short films.

          • /silently terrorizes the white family that takes over the theater as well as the prognosticator because he deserves it.

      • Oh, I also listened to last week’s This American Life on Words We Can’t Say.

        I wonder if anybody who listened to it also watched the last two seasons of South Park (they seem like very disparate audiences). Laci Green’s life, as described on TAL, is so damn close to Heidi’s story arc over the past couple of seasons.

      • Babalugats

        Hey, I’m interested in writing some stuff for the site outside of Year Of The Month, and Wallflower pointed me to you. Are you still taking new writers?

        I’ve submitted the contact form a couple times, but I figure you haven’t really had the time to fool with any of this.

        • Messaged you my piece & header image.

          • Babalugats

            I think you’re looking for @burgundysuit:disqus

          • Dammit, I saw the B and the g and YOTM and confused myself. Thanks. I did send the message to the right person though. Half credit?

          • BurgundySuit

            Got it!

    • jroberts548

      Octopussy. This pretty typical of the Moore era. It’s awful. Everything that was trashy fun in the 60s is just vulgar and tawdry in the 80s.

      My wife and I started watching all the classic Bonds together when she found out I had not seen them. It took over a year to get through Moore; partly because of library availability, etc., but mostly because Moore bond movies are terrible.

      I would, however, watch a modern spin-off about Octopussy’s all-female assassination / murder / smuggling island cult thing. It could make some of that Wonder Woman money.

      • Fox Force Five.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        I’m not gonna defend the movie as a whole, but dammit, the pre-credits teaser in Octopussy is a lot of fun.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Yeah I don’t like Moore Bonds either. He was good with a quip but the movies were usually godawful (though I’ve heard some fine defenses of Moonraker as high camp).

      • I have never felt the need to revisit the Moore stuff (even though I was introduced to the world of 007 by Moonraker and subsequent Bond films). He’s not awful (though probably the weakest of the Bond actors, even Lazenby), but the films sank into self-parody almost immediately (or perhaps continues the descent started with Diamonds Are Forever) and never entirely recovered until The Living Daylights (and then sank into self-parody again in the Brosnan films after Goldeneye). It also doesn’t help that Moore is just too old by the 80s. (He might have been too old in the 70s.)

        • Son of Griff

          YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE marked the more self consciously comic tone for me, although ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE routed the trend for a single entry. As for the Moore’s, I’d highly recommend THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. the best produced and written entry of the 70s. For your eyes only works well with lowered expectations.

        • Babalugats

          He’s 3 years older than Sean Connery!

    • The Ploughman

      A Ghost Story – The sheet thing is a perfect encapsulation of how this film does and doesn’t work. It’s perfectly rendered. Every fold and wrinkle and iteration of the hollow eyes is striking and mournful. But it doesn’t mean it’s not still pretty silly. It’s given weight and stature but we never quite stop waiting for a mournful cry from the beyond of “I got a rock.”

      I have a particular disdain for films that lean on grief as the reason d’etre for every action (see also: 21 Grams, Monsters Ball). We sit and watch Mara Rooney eat (nearly) an entire pie in a single take and it’s meaningful because sadness, man (any ghosties in my house might also witness me take down an entire pie alone, because I like pie and lack self-control). The nadir of the film comes when our besheeted guide flutters through time and, of all the historic eras to witness, pauses to watch a drunken douchebag pontificate on the meaninglessness of existence when considering the eventual death of the universe. The other patrons of the party all pause to watch his monologue, perhaps thinking he’s auditioning for the school play and it would be rude to interrupt or possibly because this is how writer/director David Lowrey is imagines people will react to this overcooked word dump. If the alternative involves any time spent at more of these parties with more of this kind of self-importance you can believe on my passing I’ll run so fast into the light even moths will be like “Whoa, let’s take a second.”

      And yet, much of the film lingers (I will not say haunts, I will not say haunts) because of the right choices Lowery makes. The cinematography is phenomenal – I really wish this had been nominated over The Shape of Water – and Casey Affleck and Rooney are the perfect actors for the material – both capable of projecting hurt and feeling so subtly and effortlessly that we don’t mind how thin their characters really are. The movie also isn’t without a certain awareness and humor about itself (the production company banner is Scared Sheetless) and the pacing and editing is so assured that even when the material dips into into student film territory, the craft keeps us buoyed.

      In the end, I’ll put it a category with another not-scary horror film, What We Do In the Shadows as perhaps the best possible execution of a very dubious concept.

      • DJ JD

        I hadn’t really thought about it until you said that, but I might agree with you about films that only give us sadness as the sole emotion experienced and motivating factor on display. I detested 21 Grams and I did come away feeling at least partially like it was because the whole movie could’ve been replaced with Melissa Leo just bawling the word SAAAAAAD for a couple hours instead. At least The Machinist had some headjobiness going on to keep things moving.

    • Miller

      End of Wire Season Three – this is often a very funny show but the longest and hardest I’ve laughed is at Carcetti’s big speech about violence. Simon has clearly spent way too much time listening to this kind of pompously earnest shit from politicians and it rings exceedingly familiar to me, I can think of a few local pols who probably jerk off to Carcetti here. They do believe, but they most believe in themselves. Also funny – we discover the Shakespeareanly ambitious and tragic Stringer Bell reads The Wealth Of Nations, while Brother Mouzone’s dipshit body man reads The Atlantic.

      Beginning of Wire Season 4 – best credits song and best credits sequence, ominous as hell. That shot of Snoop at the playground, framed like a spider in the shadows, is terrifying.

      Spartacus, back half of Vengeance – there is a guy in this show, he’s not important except for how he dies: His face is chopped off. He’s not decapitated or stabbed through the dome, his face – with mouth and nose and eyeballs – is sliced right the fuck off his head like a cigar end being clipped. For a split second, you can see his brain in his skull cavity, wiggling like cranberry sauce in a can about to schlup out. It is quite the moment! It also maybe, maybe cracks the top ten HOLY SHIT moments this show has on offer and is utterly blown away by what happens at the end of the season. God damn, this show.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Omg that fucking face chop. So good.

        Ed Burns apparently saw people praising Carcetti’s big bullshit speech and he went “Did you not watch the show?!”

        • Miller

          And the face chop is nothing compared to Illythia going HAM on Seppia and then having blood soaked sex with Glaber! And then Lucretia “unwrapping the gift!” The show somehow balances a complete lack of restraint in where the story is allowed to go with getting there fairly and remorselessly, all of this works.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Frankly Spartacus in terms of mercilessness and complexity is vastly superior to Rome (which I’m sure had five times the budget).

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Spartacus is one of the few dramas that survives having seen The Shield.

    • Delmars Whiskers

      Dracula–The 1979 version, with Frank Langella and Larry Olivier playing Van Helsing with the same annoying mittel-European accent he used as Neil Diamond’s dad in The Jazz Singer. Competently but unexcitingly directed by John Badham, the main disappointment here is that it’s adapted from the very dull play rather than Stoker’s novel, so more time is spent talking about stuff than showing us. W.D. Richter wrote the script, which would lead one to expect a more offbeat approach, but aside from Donald Pleasence eating his way through every scene, there’s not a whole lot of humor. John Williams’ high-goth score helps, and there’s a ridiculous lasers-and-fog machine love scene that makes it look like the movie has turned into a Bond credits sequence, but aside from Langella’s smoldering presence, there’s not much here.

      West Side Story–The anticipation/dread of Spielberg’s proposed remake seemed as good a reason as any for the umpteenth viewing of this longtime favorite. One thing I noticed this time around: There are a fair number of black guys lingering in the background during the dance at the gym. Did The Jets ever have a problem with them?

    • The Narrator

      Call Me By Your Name: I fit in a third viewing before it left theaters around here, and I’m glad I did, because it finally pushed this to the top of my list for last year. Every time I see it, I get more locked in to its languorous hangout vibe (the first time I thought it felt a little slow, but I’d barely change a thing now), and it breaks my heart even more in the home stretch.

      I’ll Do Anything: A most inauspicious start to my James L. Brooks watch-through for Blank Check. This is the one that used to be a musical, and if there aren’t many obvious holes from where the musical numbers used to go, there’s instead a larger hole at the center of the movie, where the point used to go. This comes off as a haphazard collection of ideas more than a movie, with some interesting strains (particularly the relationship between Albert Brooks, as a Joel Silver-esque megaproducer, and Julie Kavner) struggling for oxygen while we get entirely too much time with Nick Nolte’s struggling actor and his obnoxious, little emotional terrorist of a daughter. And worst of all, it’s just not very funny or touching. The best I can say is that at least I didn’t start with Spanglish or How Do You Know.

      Blank Check with Griffin and David, Showgirls: This is maybe the best episode of the Verhoeven miniseries thus far, managing to both go hilariously off-the-rails and get in some really insightful commentary on Verhoeven’s aims here, complete with Jacques Rivette quotes. And the Verhoeven-by-way-of-Goldmember impressions will never get old.

      The Shield, “Riceburner”: My first Shield of the new year, and I think the first I’ve watched since the Fox/Disney deal, which I hope means Vic Mackey could appear in the next Kingdom Hearts. This is pretty midlevel Shield, but I did love the radically off-center compositions during the first conversation between Aceveda and Daniel Dae Kim.

      • pico

        I’d have watched a much longer languorous hangout cut of Call Me By Your Name if it existed! (I actually liked that aspect more than the romantic line.) Have you seen Weerasethakul’s early film Blissfully Yours? The second half of the movie is pretty much all that, and nothing else, and it’s glorious.

    • clytie

      Friday: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend I want to try Trent’s bacon wrapped dates.

      Law & Order: SVU OMG! Jack McCoy was in this episode! The stuff with McCoy and Ben Stone(!) was great, but the rest of the episode was meh overall. This show needs a serious overhaul.

      The Thursday and Friday episodes of General Hospital. Friday’s episode was one of the best in ages and I’m pretty sure will go down as a classic.

      Saturday: I re-watched Unbreakable. I liked this a lot the first time I saw it years ago, but while still good, it’s not great.

      The Lifetime movie The Wrong Nanny. So-so, but a great ending made up for the rest of the movie.

      Random Law & Order: Original Recipe reruns. Saw a couple I’d never seen before.

      I re-watched Friday’s GH. It really is that good.

      More random Law & Order: Original Recipe episodes.

      I re-watched Friday’s GH again. If I didn’t have to get up early to run and go to work, I would’ve watched it a fourth time.

    • PCguy

      LOST JUNGLE (1934)

      In an interesting twist on the jungle formula this post-code film stars actual animal trainer Clyde Beatty. The first half features a performance of his circus act where, armed only with a chair, whip, a long stick and a gun filled with blanks, he gets a shitload of animals into the cage with him and gets them to stand on pedestals. He ends up with 3 bears, 2 lions, 2 tigers, 2 bobcats, and 2 cheetahs all in the same cage just chilling. The animals don’t seem to mind and they aren’t conditioned by the lash but rather the crack of the whip prodding them into position. While these animals obviously belong in the wild and it’s sad to see them living in their tiny enclosures, it’s quite the goddamn spectacle and an act that will likely never be performed in America ever again.

      Apparently this was a film cut together from footage from a serial. I didn’t notice when I was watching but this explains why the movie has some zip on it and the production values seemed a bit higher than your usual Poverty Row genre flick. Beatty later went on to star in the Republic serial DARKEST AFRICA which I’ve had forever but I’ve yet to get past that title and sit down to actually watch it.

      • The Ploughman

        I must admit my only experience with Clyde Beatty is the footage of him used in Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. There’s a fascination for me of people who set records or are known to be the top of a discipline that for whatever reason doesn’t exist anymore and are thus unlikely to be dethroned.

    • Man with a robot arm

      Personal Shopper – Went in fresh with no idea what this was about. With a minimum of CGI Stewart and Assayas are able to make texting suspenseful. One scene in particular is one of the creepiest I’ve seen in a long time. Needs a rewatch to catch all Assayas is trying to say about identity, grief, and technology.

      Justice League – Was really disappointed Steppenwolf wasn’t John Malkovich and Gary Sinise.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        I was bummed Steppenwolf wasn’t a haunted, awkward outsider.

      • Oh boy, that scene in Personal Shopper is so, so memorable and off-handedly frightening.

    • Rosy Fingers

      Finally got around to seeing The Room and, sure, it was something. I’m conflicted here, in that I don’t really seek out bad films or enjoy being embarrassed for others, but this movie definitely had its own unique wavelength which was peculiarly fascinating. The stream of non-sequitur responses that comprise the dialogue, as well as the off-kilter timing of said dialogue (presumably just incompetent ADR editing), were continually disorienting and easily the most “enjoyable” aspect to the movie. The sub-Hallmark storytelling, misogynist themes and pervasive bad sex scenes were boring, although I was amused by the musical soundtrack to the sex scenes.

      Overall I just got a bit tired of the whole thing about halfway through. When one’s main response is to kind of snort/chuckle every few minutes out of recognition that something’s poorly done, rather than genuine amusement or pleasure, that’s not worth a 90+ minute commitment.

      The story of Tommy Wiseau – his origins and the choices he made for the film – are also fascinating. Yet, having seen The Room I now feel no interest in watching The Disaster Artist. Re-living the original film through a Hollywood lens seems like it would somehow be both a more perverse and a more tedious experience.

      • The Ploughman

        I’d recommend the book The Disaster Artist over the movie, hands down. It enhances the craziness that let to its creation.

  • I think I’ve only done a single run through the last two seasons of Futurama – reading these comments makes me want to revisit a bunch of these. I definitely remember enjoying the ones you’ve picked as masterpieces very much indeed.

  • Fanny Vaughan

    His utter rage at what’s going on is a wonderful salve for, uh, what’s going on. As unrealistic and nonsensical as it is, I do also love the scene with the profiler, because it’s one of those scenes that gets funnier the longer it goes.”Your honour, I’d like to present as evidence exhibit A: these guns

  • Kiara

    Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Mission Impossible: Rouge NationAfter watching the trailer for the next Mission Impossible movie (which looks badass – it is crazy how much more intimidating Henry Cavill looks in this compared to him as Superman), I realized I haven’t seen the last two. I think it is easy to look at this franchise as the films where Tom Cruise does some crazy stunt to promote the movie

    • DJ JD

      I don’t understand the point of these spambots. What is this even trying to accomplish? Does Disqus have like a way to scan for non-content posts so they’re trying to look legitimate so they can drop the inevitable MCLAREN F1 GOOGLE FROM HOME MONEY DOESN’T WORK nonsense?

      • Yeah, I’ve been wondering this. Somehow automated spam is even more sinister when it doesn’t actually seem to be selling anything.

        • [Charlie Brooker scribbles this comment for Black Mirror Season 5]

      • Babalugats

        I can only assume they’re building terminators.

      • Yes, this. They’re trying to build up a history so they look less scammy when they flip to ad-mode. Unless, of course, that’s what they want us to think they’re doing and this is all some part of a master plan that ends with us toiling in their sugar caves.

        • DJ JD

          Bah! I suppose I fed the machine just by replying. Anything we can/do to these besides returning to ignoring them with extreme prejudice?

          • We could only ever talk about how stupid they are, so that when they copy it they end up insulting themselves? Oh how we’ll laugh.

          • Glorbes

            Maybe we could talk the spambots into some kind of logic loop, thus making them explode.

          • DJ JD

            I haven’t worked in IT for a few years now, but we’d occasionally quietly label a problem as PEBCAK: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. I suppose they found a way around that issue, at least.

          • Ignore and those of us with the “Soluter” tag can zap them.

        • Glorbes

          First you get the sugar, etc.

      • Son of Griff

        I wonder if it has something to do with harvesting upvotes for some nefarious information grabbing purpose regarding Disqus accounts.

  • Miller

    Harsh but fair on Neutopia. This is just a guess and it doesn’t excuse laziness, but I’d bet a not-inconsiderable factor in making that episode was “Let’s do something where we draw the characters as different genders!”, a way to screw around with the art. A much better version of this (at least to my recollection) happens in the great webcomic Narbonic.

  • pico

    I’d make a stronger defense of “Reincarnation,” which I think is one of their most conceptually fascinating episodes. It’s not just that they’re parodying three styles of animation, but that the conceptual crux of each segment is inseparable from some inherent limitation of that style. So: color in the b&w segment, resolution in the 24-bit pixel segment, movement in the anime segment. The reason they went with classic anime, which, as you said, is an already over-parodied territory, is that they wanted to foreground that limitation. Binding those limitations to thematic necessity, making a medium-related impossibility the generator of plot, makes it, I think, one of the most formally interesting ideas the show ever explored.

    • The Ploughman

      Totally agreed. The thematic tie on top of already funny stand-alone segments puts “Reincarnation” somewhere in the top ten (maybe even five?) of all time for me.