Ingrid Goes West Has Refreshing And Entertaining Things To Say About Technology

We all use social media these days, but if you think you’re hooked on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all those sorts of apps, just wait until you meet Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza). This is one person whose fixation on social media goes well into the unhealthy territory and her aggravation over seeing Instagram pictures of her “best friends” wedding that she wasn’t invited leads her to attack said “best friend” at that wedding. After that, she’s been spending some extended time at a mental institution, hoping to get her life in order…until she finds the next target of her obsession, a Los Angeles social media icon by the name of Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen).

In no time at all, Ingrid packs her bags full of money and heads off to Los Angeles (hence the title declaring the titular character is heading westward) in order to become Sloane’s new best friend. Though Ingrid has never really met someone like Sloane before, she’s very much an expert in the world of manufacturing relationships and knows just how to get Sloane to be her new best bud for life and is similarly adept at getting her Batman-obsessed landlord Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr) to dutifully help her out. The people she’s meeting for the first time in L.A. may think Ingrid is just a cool new friend but there’s a creepy controlling nature to Ingrid that assures that any sense of tranquility in these newfound relationships can’t last for very long.

Many modern-day movies seemed to have struggled in trying to figure out how to address the omnipresence of technology in younger people’s lives without coming off as either trying too hard to be hip or overtly condescending. Just remembering how Wish Upon had that one teenage girl who was fixated on a lame Clash of Clans/Pokemon Go! knock-off reminds me of how utterly awful certain attempts at being tech-savvy in modern-day cinema can be. Luckily, Ingrid Goes West proves to actually be one of the better examples of tackling this topic primarily because it’s less interested in appearing “cool” or finger-wag the high presence of iPhones and is instead curious on how certain types of human beings hinging on obsession that have always existed would function in age of social media omnipresence.

If Ingrid Goes West was made just two decades ago, Ingrid would have had the same personality, she just would have had, like, a journal to keep disturbingly detailed notes on people she wants to be friends with or she’d spy on them via a pair of binoculars. Now, all a person like Ingrid needs to do to even just figure out where a person like Taylor Sloane is at an exact moment is check up on her Instagram page. Social media isn’t itself an inherently bad thing in Ingrid Goes West, rather, it’s fascinatingly looked at as a potential impetus for individuals who already engaging in creepy stalker behavior to further indulge said behavior by way of the modern-day tendency to catalogue one’s entire life on social media.

For a film that entertainingly engages in more over-the-top moments, I was thoroughly impressed with how this core idea of the script is handled in a successfully subtle manner. All of those larger ideas about the misuse of modern-day technology give one plenty to think about upon leaving the theater but they never call attention to themselves, instead serving as byproducts of the ridiculously and unpredictably absorbing journey undertaken by the lead character of Ingrid Thorburn, a quasi-modern day Travis Bickle like character in that they’re both obliviously self-absorbed individuals dealing with obvious mental health problems and are thoroughly convinced the entire world revolves around them.

Whereas Bickle’s self-centered tendencies saw him carrying had larger aspirations of being a savior for a broken world, Ingrid just wants to contort her identity so that she can be the perfect match for any person she wants to be best friends with. The way the screenplay by Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith frequently depicts Ingrid subtly metamorphizes herself to be a perfect match for whoever she wants to interact with in order to obtain something for herself has a subdued errieness to it, especially since those people she’s interacting with are predominately completely unknowing of just how dangerous Ingrid can be.

It’s a fascinatingly written lead character that Aubrey Plaza’s truly gusto performance brings to life with soaring success. After working so well at bringing layers to an antagonistic creation on Legion earlier this year, Plaza thrives in portraying a more naturalistic character whose obsessive tendencies in trying to win over Sloane as her new best friend simultaneously depict a sense of wisdom in that Ingrid knows just what gestures and things to say to win Sloane over but there’s also a hollowness to these traits, there’s an almost undetectable twinge of inorganicness to these qualities because, well, they’re just not who Ingrid is, she can’t hide that no matter how much research she does on her prospective new best friends on social media. There’s lots to unpack in this character and Aubrey Plaza’s performance is a big reason why.

The supporting cast members turn in some really noteworthy performances too, Elizabeth Olsen is terrific at playing Sloane, a person obsessed with coming off as a perfect while having her own unsavory tendencies in her personality and Sloane’s brother played by Billy Magnussen is an incredibly accurate and appropriately scathing pastiche of Logan Paul and other dude-bro social media personalities. Biggest scene-stealer of the bunch has to be O’Shea Jackson Jr., he’s totally irresistible as Ingrid’s landlord and potential love interest and gets some of the best lines of the whole movie (his praise of Val Kilmer as Batman on a romantic date is a particular comedic stand-out). A cast that’s firing on all cylinders, particularly in Aubrey Plaza’s lead performance, a script that’s got plenty of darkly hilarious moments and a thoughtful take on technology (though the screenplay does feel like it’s dawdling a bit in the third act) plus some promising direction from Matt Spicer in his feature film directorial debut, it all adds up to a thoroughly entertaining motion picture like Ingrid Goes West that had my eyes glued to the screen just like Ingrid’s eyes are always glued to her iPhone screen.

  • Belated Comebacker

    Is this where we’re posting What Watched (or Was Watched by) You?

    If so, here’s my one-two punch:

    • Belated Comebacker

      Logan Lucky: Man, what a great movie to end the summer season on. Soderbergh is in top form here, willing to sit back and let the characters and their varied interactions play out in front of his camera. As I’ve mentioned before when the trailer came out, screenwriter Rebecca Blunt really managed to nail a style not unlike Elmore Leonard’s, filled with small-time crooks dreaming of hitting the big score. (They even give Channing Tatum’s Jimmy Logan a “10 rules for robbing a bank,” much like Frank Ryan’s 10 Rules for Success and Happiness in “Swag!”) The score by David Holmes isn’t as prominent as in past films, but he still creates an interesting tone, with a slight, electronica acoustic guitar riff.

      Ocean’s Eleven (2001): Haven’t seen this in a while, but it definitely holds up (naturally). Soderbergh once referred to these three films as “Roy Lichtenstein panels,” and boy, that definitely sticks. Peter Andrews does good work here, where everyone almost always has this great, star-wattage glow to them, along with a nice mix of color temperatures (remember that nightclub scene where Rusty is teaching starlets how to play poker, with the red, the yellow, the blue!) Fun comparing this slick version of a heist film to Logan Lucky’s more ramshackle affair.

      • Miller

        Jimmy’s rules contain multiple reminders that things will go south at some point and to roll with it, which might make him the smartest criminal ever depicted on film.

        • Belated Comebacker

          Remember: shit happens.

      • Back in high school, when my parents were renovating the house, we had no TV, so I cycled through my movie collection. Ocean’s 11 was one of the few I never grew tired of.

    • Drunk Napoleon

      A documentary on the day of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. It’s a British documentary, but it’s shot in a very American style, with fast cutting, handheld, lots of music, and lots of special effects. Ordinarily, I find this style of documentary obnoxious, but it worked in this case because everything was in service of genuinely interesting facts, e.g. a really cool shot showing the area where the asteroid hit, filling up the forest with ocean water, and a demonstration of the effect of the asteroid on geology by showing dozens of photos of excavated rock in extremely rapid procession.

      I also notice that I happen to find digital filmmaking more beautiful when it uses shallow depth-of-field as opposed to deep focus; obviously this is a personal taste thing, but I still want to study why further. The soft-focus makes it look more impressionistic, and something about deep-focus digital just looks more cheap for some reason. Of course, in counterpoint to that, you have the films of David Fincher from Zodiac onwards, which are consistently beautiful and tend towards wide shots and deep focus.

      • Belated Comebacker

        I think you’re onto something with digital cameras using deep focus. Back in school, I would only have digital ENG/EFP cameras (the types of cameras used by and for TV News), which meant the default setting on those suckers were ALWAYS going to be deep focus. It took a lot of work and a lot of fiddling around to get it into soft focus, so I think when you see a digital camera using shallow focus (as Soderbergh is fond of doing), it looks more cinematic, because 1) it’s hard as hell to pull off on a cheaper digital camera, and 2) because that’s what our brains and eyes register as ‘cinema.’

        (P.S. – I spoke of a screenplay I was writing that you expressed an interest in reading, many moons ago. I finished my second pass of it, and wanted to know if you still had an interest in reading it over. If so, let me know how to send it to ya.)

        • Drunk Napoleon

          Shoot me an email at tristan (dot) jay (dot) nankervis (at) gmail (dot) com.

          • Belated Comebacker

            Got it! Stand by for receiving later today!

        • ZoeZ

          May a still from the film of your screenplay one day be on The Solute’s front page!

        • The Ploughman

          I think you’ve got the right of it and my experience in film school – where our digital cameras didn’t often have the ability to switch lenses – was that whomever could pull off shallow focus shots on digital was DP of the year (we mostly stuck to 16mm).

          The other part of it is it takes way less light to achieve deep focus on digital, so it’s easy to overlight. The amount of light you have to pump in to get deep focus on film means A) there’s probably going to be some interesting shadows/contrasts created by the extra lighting and B) probably only proven DPs and gaffers were going to have access to that level of lighting equipment at that time.

          Once basic competence is achieved, poorly shot film is going to look better than poorly shot digital (especially years ago when stock speeds were slower) because the default with film is not enough light while the default with digital is too much.

          • Belated Comebacker

            You nailed it, and bring to mind some of the more recent digital films that have been shot at night, and the lengths crews will go to in order to achieve that ‘shallow depth-of-field look.’ (For example, in “Nightcrawler,” Robert Elswit needed his crew to flag off practical fixtures when shooting in downtown L.A., due to the hypersensitive nature of the Alexa camera they had).

          • The Ploughman

            I was at the tail end of film school when Mann’s Collateral came out and the fact that he had exposure on the distant lights of LA at night blew our minds.

      • ZoeZ

        Oh! I also read this story called “The Talleyrand Life,” which you may have heard of. I’m still wrapping my head around the ending, but in addition to spotting the Solute nods (“But of course, it’s your decision”), it’s fascinating to go through this as a “Talleyrand Trial” literary remix. In a way, the difference between the two seems like the difference between Goodwin and Baden, who represent the dramatic/literary divide. And identity comes first here, because it’s literary, so it’s a nice touch to open with the demand for that.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          I was so annoyed when I got to writing that part, because I didn’t want to fill the whole thing with Solute injokes but when it came to that specific part, I had to write “Baden’s mum is annoyed at her choice but lets her make it”, and that seemed the best way to convey it. I eventually chose to write it because I decided it was hilarious to me to take the exact same line and make it necessary.

          That last note is an interesting point, and I’m going to break a personal rule (if someone reads something clever in your story, go with it, aka “If someone asks you if you’re a god, you say yes!”) and admit I never actually intended that – it was supposed to set up the Mystery of the Killbots. But, it’s interesting that this whole first part of the story was basically a way for me to figure out who these people are and what they want and what they’ll do, and how I’m going to write the story to convey all that. I talk all the time about the relationship between how the storyteller works and how the character works; what you picked up on was me fumbling about trying to figure out who these people are, so you’re right.

          And what’s really interesting is that this has got me thinking about writing literary stories. Recently, I worked out drama down to a science (https://www.the-solute.com/year-of-the-month-babalugats-on-danger-diabolik/#comment-3501454247), and maybe literary stories are just step 2, over and over and over, a thousand declarations of intent on the part of the characters that changes every time they do it. And it’s interesting that I can factor this into how I write even as I write this story – literature allows me to change my process slightly midstream, and in fact kind of requires it, in a way I wouldn’t be able to do with drama.

          • ZoeZ

            That layout on structuring drama is incredibly helpful. Lately I’ve been feeling like while I love to watch/read drama, I irritatingly just can’t write it, but this gives me hope that maybe I can coax my brain into working that way on a creative level when I want to take that approach. (But, as I’ve said before, your thoughts on craft are always really interesting and useful to me.)

            The Mystery of the Killbots is a great, gradual (and literary) accumulation of detail, and one that encourages attentiveness: to their clunky construction, to their strangely wide corridors, to whatever they’re “thinking.” It works really well with the approach. I do think mysteries as mysteries (rather than as crime/suspense/thrillers) inherently tend towards a literary approach, a look into what’s already true.

    • lgauge

      Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 17 and 18: HOLY SHIT. That was amazing. I strangely find the lack of satisfaction incredibly satisfying. I rarely feel as speechless as I did after it was over. These last two episodes may have been the final push to make me love this as much as, or even more than, OG Twin Peaks.

      As some have noted, 17 feels like the ending that Twin Peaks should have and then 18 was Lynch making a mini-movie with the show as a starting point. If Part 8 was a formally abstract way of conveying something fairly textually specific (the birth of a new evil resulting from the atomic bomb and the “beginning” of the story), then Part 8 was something formally straightforward that dealt in textual abstractness. Part 18 also in a way shared 8’s structure in terms of starting off as an episode in the continuity, but suddenly becoming more of a David Lynch short film. Also 18 = 8+10 and “10 is the number of completion” etc.

      I’m just so shook. I’m happy, but I’m wreck. I feel every conceivable emotion. We can all speculate about the meaning of it all, as I’m sure we’ll do in the days, weeks, months and years to come, but let’s all sit back and enjoy the fact that we experienced something historic. Remember the line from 17 when one of the Mitchum Brothers (I forget which) says something like “This’ll be something to tell the grandkids”? I feel like that line was meant for the audience. I’m not sure we’ll ever get something quite like this again.

      People will argue about how to classify this when we’re making our best of the year lists, but in any case I doubt I’ll see anything better than this on either the small or big screen this year. Wow.

    • ZoeZ

      Arrival: The construction of the misleads here seemed more like cheating to me this time around, even though I knew the ending of the story the first time I watched it, and Forest Whitaker just does not work well as the “explain it to me like I’m five” guy. Nevertheless, the design of the heptapods and their language is very cool.

      Barton Fink: Gorgeous, nightmarish satire, and it’s the nightmare that gives the satire its heart. I also just like Barton wandering through several different movies, fundamentally unaware of his medium.

      Edge of Tomorrow: I finally caught the detail that makes the last segment not such an egregious mandatory-happy-ending cheat, and I like that much more now. The editing here is really phenomenal.

      XX: The first two segments–eerie, soft-focus domestic horror and faintly Lynchian black comedy suburbia–are strong, but the third is insignificant and the fourth actively annoyed me by its constant wink-wink-nudge-nudge insider nods to the fact that it’s basically Rosemary’s Baby fanfic. If I had wondered what it was like to be the target audience of Ready Player One, I know now, and the answer is: fucking irritating.

      Paterson: I suspect that this is one of those movies that people will either like or find unbelievably cutesy and boring. I loved it, and it was exactly the movie I needed at this point, something that made me think deeply about art, craft, the beauty of the world, contentment, and attentiveness. Plus, Adam Driver makes for an appealingly specific, strange center to the movie, making Paterson’s capacity for enjoyment of other people, disengagement from them, and kindness toward them all seem natural.

      • Belated Comebacker

        Thanks for the reminder that I need to see “Paterson,” (which is streaming on Amazon Prime!), and that I should be re-watching “Barton Fink,” if only to catch the wonderful portrayal/pastiche that is W.P. Mayhew. And lest I forget, Judy Davis’ Audrey Taylor (love how she pronounces Bar-ton.)

        • Miller

          Oh man, the way Davis drawls “Barton” is ridiculously hot. Nearly as hot: Mahoney’s “WHERE’S MAH HONEH?”

          • Judy Davis in her early ’90s Naked Lunch/Barton Fink phase is one of my major cinematic crushes for sure.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          “I apologize for the smhell.”

      • Drunk Napoleon

        Aw, the third one was my favourite. Of all the movies in the bunch, it’s the one most dedicated to just being scary as fuck. What did you think of the lesbian representation in it? I spoke to the director of that segment, and her intention was to simply present queer characters without making a big deal of it; I prefer my representation enough of a big deal to, ya know, notice.

        • ZoeZ

          I’m probably being unfair on the third because I am easily scared by everything except 90% of creature horror (most obvious exception: The Thing). But I did like the ominous, unsettling canyon-wall painting, and its title review was genuinely terrific, to be slightly more just!

          I caught the blink-and-you-miss-it lesbians and my basic reaction was, “Huh, okay, that’s kind of cool,” because I do like the “treating it as unremarkable” approach generally, but it did kind of feel like a throw-in exactly so that I would think that. I don’t mind Benjamin’s approach here because she is admittedly working with a very short run-time and her approach is to distill the story down to its pulpy essentials, but on a larger scale, it bugs me because then you get things like Beauty and the Beast or Star Trek: Beyond where representation is a lot of deniable silence and then a two-second shot that can be trimmed for the overseas market.

          So: casual I’m fine with, unless “casual” means “in a way, spending any actual time on this queer relationship would be persecution of its own, so here’s a cheek-kiss in the background to prove my progressive street cred while we focus on something straight.” Don’t Fall tosses it in and then keeps focusing on “monster,” which I’m okay with, but it would not make my internal list of movies-with-good-queer-characters-where-being-queer-isn’t-the-point.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            It’s funny, I’m as equally frightened by everything; I went in saying to myself “Okay, I’m probably going to be scared, so I should embrace that for a change”, and then appreciated how Don’t Fall is completely unforgiving to its audience. I think especially of the scene where the monster climbs over the top of the bus and pokes her head down – I was thinking “I’ve seen this in enough monster movies, the tension I feel now is gonna be worse than anything I actually see”, and then the monster’s face was actually worse than I expected.

            Benjamin is queer (I vaguely recall her being embarrassed to admit that one of the victims has the same name as her ex-girlfriend, which was an accident on her part), so I’d never question her sincerity in representation (and I’m not even suggesting that’s what you’re doing, just setting up my point). I think there’s a real generation gap in queer people and what they want from representation. People our age grew up with winks and nods, and whether or not you want “queer people being totally awesome over The Straights” or “queer people just being queer without it being a Thing”, I think we’re collectively uninterested in winks and nods because that’s what we’re used to getting and it doesn’t feel like enough anymore.

      • Miller

        Barton at the USO dance on the eve of Pearl frigging Harbor is a great scene for anyone who writes to store away in their head for consideration the next time they get too highfalutin about their work. The Coens are incredibly jaded about artists (although enthralled with musical performance), which makes their movies about them sometimes nasty but darkly funny and a nice tonic to tortured genius/power of art stuff.

        • ZoeZ

          And I cannot watch his first exchange with John Goodman without cringing. “I could tell you stories. One time–” “And I want to hear them!”

          • Miller

            Ughhhhhh. Even more important and something I will absolutely flash on in conversations: “YOU! DON’T! LISTEN!” It’s funny how the Coens seem to have an enjoyment of (if not respect for) Jack Lipnick, he also does not listen but as a phony showbiz blusterer he makes no pretense to, bullshit is his art. Barton thinks telling stories about The People is his art yet he refuses to listen to them and that kind of fraudulence is literally damning for the Coens.

      • pico79

        Barton Fink is my favorite Coens and I’m still grumbly that Goodman’s career-best performance went completely unacknowledged. ,I’ll show you the life of the mind!

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Paterson is so fucking great and a movie I want to dissect over and over. It’s deceptively simple but has layers of nuance and intricacies, from the doubling to Paterson’s quiet, subtle engagement with the world. I usually argue that good people do not make the best dramatic characters but here is a great film about a good, kind man.

      • thesplitsaber

        ‘Arrival: The construction of the misleads here seemed more like cheating to me this time around, even though I knew the ending of the story the first time I watched it, and Forest Whitaker just does not work well as the “explain it to me like I’m five” guy. Nevertheless, the design of the heptapods and their language is very cool.’

        Thats a movie that relys entirely on Adams to carry it ( I agree on Whitaker and thought Renner was an odd choice too). She did a great job and Im still kind of confused she got a best actress nod for American Hustle and not this.

    • Twin Peaks, The Return, Parts 17 and 18 – jesus christ. This was absolutely astonishing but in a way that tore me to pieces. I’ve gone from “I can’t wait to revisit this whole thing” to “I don’t actually know if I can cope with seeing that again?”, but also – in a good way? I can’t believe it’s all over.

      I also watched The Burning afterwards in an attempt to settle my nerves. It’s a fun summer camp slasher with good characters, Savini FX, plenty of future stars in the cast (although sadly Holly Hunter doesn’t get to do much more than lurk in the background), but the actual horror elements fall slightly flat – there’s no real tension or buildup, just explosions of violence. May have had more impact if I wasn’t already so rattled!

      • Belated Comebacker

        Love “The Burning.” Haven’t seen it in a while, but a noted connoisseur of the horror canon said how it was a more successful version of “Friday the 13th.” Don’t know how well that theory holds up for me now, but it sure seemed right when I first saw it.

        • Yes, I made that same comparison over on Letterboxd! I consider the original Friday the 13th a pretty low bar to clear, though. As summer camp slashers go, I’d say Sleepaway Camp beats them both.

          • Belated Comebacker

            Noted! Guess I’ll have to add that to the list of movies to watch (if only summer weren’t ending).

            Still, I’ll give credit where credit is due for the first “Friday the 13th:” they REALLY know how to use darkness. Love that shot of the cabin window isolated against the impenetrable blackness of night. A good way of showing how isolated the counselors are. And the score is still catchy, even if it’s ripped off of John Carpenter’s score for “Halloween.”

      • Maybe it’s partly because I’m going through a what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moment right now, but the finale and what it seemed to be saying got under my skin in a way no work of art has in a long time. I felt almost paralyzed for a while after it was over.

        • I don’t remember feeling so displaced and strange after anything else I’ve watched before. I wasn’t going through a what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moment before that finale but I think I have been ever since!?

        • pico79

          I’ve rewatched the last five minutes a couple of times now, and it gets more unnerving every single time. Jesus.

          • I imagine this is how the first generation of Twin Peaks fans must have felt in 1991.

    • Orphan Black season 4, episode 8: OK, if you weren’t watching till now, there is no point in trying to explain. But it’s a good hour of TV, and apparently Tatiana Maslany can sing, too.

      Men in Black, The Series – Bet you don’t remember this animated series from the late 90s that aired, IIRC, on UPN. The second season – but not the first – is on Crackle. It’s goofy, but does capture the sensibility of the original film well. And David Warner plays a bad guy on occasion.

      Fawlty Towers: The Kipper and the Corpse – probably the weakest episode I have seen yet, relying far too much on Basil’s incompetence to be that funny, though it still has its moments.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        What can’t Maslany do?!

      • thesplitsaber

        Man i loved that MIB series theme song. I want to say it was closer to the grungy weird feeling of the comic.

    • Fresno Bob

      Twin Peaks comes to an end in Twin Peaks fashion. I’m not sure why I’m surprised that so many people are pissed about it. Like, this is what David Lynch and Mark Frost do, and what Twin Peaks does. It was neat seeing the “satisfying” ending for most of part 17, only to have it upended by episode 18. Fantastic stuff!

    • The Ploughman

      MST3K – “Mitchell” Classic, and made more hilarious by the fact that apparently Joe Don Baker did not appreciate the disrespect leveled at his movie about a violent alcoholic who doesn’t play by the rules, including basic rules of human decency.

      Also attended a Labor Day Game of Kansas City’s favorite non-major league baseball team, the T-Bones. It was the last game of the season and kids ate free so what the hell. About 500 people had the same idea and we all enjoyed a pretty competitive game in the heat, picking up dropped hot dog buns behind our children. Then the seventh inning stretch came and Bill Murray got up and led the singing.

      If you did a double-take at that sentence, I’ve successfully recreated my own reaction at the time. You don’t have to be in New York to experience a random Bill Murray sighting is the lesson here.

      • Miller

        I love Mitchell and its savaging of Baker (you better believe I laugh at the fat jokes) but I can sort of see his point — the gang makes him a larger punchline than just what Mitchell deserves, dissing “Joe Don Baker movies” in the way you’d crap on Charles Band or Ed Wood movies and ignoring that great flicks like The Outfit or Charley Varrick are Joe Don Baker movies too (and while it is an extremely small role, he is perfectly cast as the fading yet still dangerous patriarch in Mud, the guy’s physicality still impresses more than any ten jacked but insubstantial action actors).

        • DJ JD

          I had to let nuMST grow on me, but I have certainly come to appreciate how careful they are with their tone. MST classic both benefitted and suffered from starting out as a local-channel tv show some guys launched for fun, for sure–I seriously doubt any of them went into this expecting to actually hurt Joe Don Baker’s feelings, in hindsight.

          • The Ploughman

            It may not be a coincidence that Mitchell was the transition episode between the Joel and Mike eras. There is significant overlap in the kind of jokes they would do. Mike was almost always head writer, after all. But the Joel years seemed more interested in introducing strange and unseen cinema (a vestige of Joel’s original idea of the characters as merely late-nite movie hosts) and a weary self-defense mechanism when inflicted with this nonsense (which was the initial appeal to school-age viewers who muttered comments at their teachers from the back of the room).

            Mike’s crew is more honed in their riffing but nearly always had the goal of demonstrating themselves superior to the movie. Their host segments balanced out some of the nastiness by usually being self-deprecating, but it played into the same idea that comedy always has to have a losing side. A point of comparison might be Time Chasers, a classic Mike episode that on rewatch comes across unnecessarily aggressive. At least Joe Don Baker had a resume before and after Mitchell for defense (plus Trace gives Martin Balsam a shout-out for The Taking of Pelham One Two Three).

    • The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography–Erros Morris is the best living documentary filmmaker, and this one is quietly one of his very best. It’s a retrospective of Dorfman’s career, but as it goes on, it sneakily becomes a meditation on the death of physical media and the inevitability of mortality in general, and I found it tremendously moving.

    • DJ JD

      Boardwalk Empire, S1E1 – We were looking for a chaser between BB seasons and tried this. This isn’t going to happen, I fear. Buscemi seems wildly miscast as a Machiavellian heavy, and I have no idea if the action they showed us is historically accurate, but it comes across as fairly unbelievable. Spoilers from here on out: the kid jams his mentor’s plans, slaughters the men he’s doing business with–and then hands him a stack of cash and says “no more halfway gangsters” and they’re moving forward like this? I assumed he was dead meat, but apparently this is the show moving the action forward. Anyway, it was too close to House of Cards‘ gilded-moronic-trash feel for my liking.

      • Bhammer100

        Boardwalk Empire is great. I never had a problem with Buscemi as the lead although a lot of the supporting cast did seem more interesting because they were more colorful – Michael K. Williams, Stephen Graham, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg. But BE is definitely worth watching because of one man – Richard Harrow.

        • DJ JD

          Michael Shannon alone carried some weight in the “give it a try” column, no doubt. I know it’s unfair to bail on a show after just one episode, because any show would be working out the bugs this early on (and no doubt, this show is working out some bugs.) But I haven’t a ton of viewing time and Breaking Bad season 4 – to say nothing of The Tick – still beckons…

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          The whole scene in season 2 where Huston describes how he loved his sister then lost that love after the war, then takes off his mask makes me weep like a baby.

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        Buscemi seems wildly miscast as a Machiavellian heavy

        I really thought this would have worked better with John Goodman in the role. Apparently the real Enoch Thompson was closer to him in physical stature anyway.

        Anyway, Boardwalk Empire is solidly B-list Prestige Television; superficially well-made and entertaining while you watch it, and some great performances of course, but also something you’ll forget five minutes after you finish watching it. (I never even bothered to get around to the final season because I just didn’t care.)

        • DJ JD

          Ooo, now Goodman would be a whole different animal in that role. I like Buscemi as an actor a great deal, but while he can convey a certain grit when he wants to, he’s never been the heaviest guy in the room. Goodman would’ve been a completely different experience.

          B-list Prestige: I like it and I could see that. If I had the time for B-list viewing I’d almost certainly stick with it some, for Michael Shannon as a sneering antibooze cop if nothing else.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Shannon is fascinating; a few other actors are terrific (I like Michael Stuhlbarg and Stephen Graham in their roles of Rothstein and Capone, respectively), and John Huston’s performance as Fan Favorite Richard Harrow is one of the lights of the series that keeps people tuned in even when other parts drag.

            But I tend to feel the same way you do about B-list Prestige TV. Give me something that actually compels me to watch beyond “This is pretty and pushes all the easy buttons for Drama.” Time is short and I’m not really down for overrated forgettable shows (a conclusion I came to permanently after the fawning for season 2 of Fargo completely missed me).

          • DJ JD

            I had an experience that, if not identical, certainly hit some familiar notes with House of Cards. I started out very interested in the subject, the cast was great, they seemed to be firing on all cylinders… By the time I asked myself just what the show was asking me to accept, I was almost an entire season into it.

    • jroberts548

      Wonder Woman. There was a lot about it that I liked. I liked Gadot’s performance. I liked Chris Pine’s job too, and the way his character was basically the stereotypical superhero’s girlfriend. The writing for the Gadot-Pine scenes was pretty good. I appreciated the dick jokes.

      There were some things I have big reservations about. The WWI Germans are treated as if they were Nazis. Like, they clearly had a script or plot treatment for WWII and then changed it. If the British found out about a new German gas that was effective against people with gas masks, they would have copied it, not destroyed it.

      Also I’m pretty sure you can’t fall asleep in a sail boat and expect it find its own way from Greece to London, but maybe it was a magic boat. The gala didn’t make sense either, but I think they just wanted an excuse to put Gadot in a gown and I don’t blame them.

      There were some things I did not like at all. The action scenes were mostly bad. Some of the slow motion / speed ramping was okay when it was at the Amazon training sessions because it was about showing off. But it looks super fake and it makes the hits look impactless. Replacement level action scenes – just stunt actors fighting – would have been better. And some of the CGI looked really bad. Gadot is pretty lithe, but she isn’t actually weightless and sometimes she moves like she’s being dragged by a mouse cursor, which she was.

      Rewatch of most of Pacific Rim on tv. “Gips y’all analog! Nuclear!”

      Defenders, up to episode 7. Danny Rand is a suspiciously better character / more believable fighter when he’s in the shadows or wearing a hoody. There are some logic gaps in the show (What’s Electra doing? How does foggy think bringing matt’s Daredevil suit to the precinct will help him keep his lives separate?), but overall this season has been pretty good.

    • The Tick. The Big Blue Bug of Justice returns in a fairly well-done origin story that comes in at under two and a half hours all told. The tone wobbles a bit but that’s to be expected, since Ben Edlund is trying for that kind of Showdown in Little China/Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai of parody-but-still-heroic vibe. The plotting hangs together nicely–there’s some good contemporary touches (a sublime moment involving Reddit), a lot of seeds planted that will hopefully pay off a later, a boss credit sequence, and a good twist at the end. The cast is all strong: good to see Valorie Curry getting work after she was wasted in Joe Carroll’s Good-Time Stabby Hour, and GrifFIN! Newman gets better as the series goes on.

      Interestingly, this plays as kind of Mirrored Show to Rick and Morty. The Tick is kinda slow and Rick is kinda an asshole, and it comes from the same place for both of them: they both understand the universe they’re in on a level the other characters don’t. The fact that the Tick seems to have arrived entire at the same time Arthur meets him and that twist at the end promise a Rick-level deepening of his story, too.

      • thesplitsaber

        how does it compare to the earlier live action version?

        • Less jokey, more of a serial than a sitcom. Serafinowicz is a less reliable comic presence than Patrick Warburton, and a less confident one (EDIT: “Java demon, you are now my bitch” would never work coming from this Tick), but that seems very much Edlund’s design here. It’s not clear yet what the Tick’s role in this story is, and he knows it–he’s aware of the bigger picture but doesn’t have the smarts to see it and Arthur is the reverse of that. The earlier show tried for a chemistry among its characters and didn’t get there; here Team Edlund is going for a story, and we’re in the earliest stages of it.

    • The Narrator

      Arthur: Not the aardvark or Dudley Moore, but Russell Brand. To my surprise, Brand isn’t the worst thing about this movie (sorry, Jennifer Garner, but that’s you). For every three or so obnoxious quips he knocks out one that makes me laugh (and early on, he’s doing the lines so fast that speed begins to compensate), and he does good double-team with Helen Mirren. But boy do I not buy Brand or this character as a romantic lead, and the end attempts at pathos do not work in the slightest. But special condemnation must go to this movie’s incredible misuse of Greta Gerwig (now you see why I watched it), who’s playing a completely dull, generic character that any actress in or out of Hollywood could do in their sleep. All she is is a smile, a few quirks, and the occasional comeback to one of Brand’s jokes. She doesn’t even dance! Even goddamn No Strings Attached let her dance!

      • DJ JD

        I didn’t mind it too much, but Gerwig and that ending, ugh, that ending. If you want to show us rehab, Hollywood, don’t show the rampaging egomaniac nonstop dominating his group with tales about how hilarious he was when he was drunk. I kept waiting for him to get thrown out of the group, but the movie clearly thought it was being charming.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        I watched the Dudley Moore Arthur and surprisingly kind of enjoyed it, especially Moore’s heartbreaking little “My father died today” line reading. He had a good, kind dramatic actor in him.

    • silverwheel

      Frankenheiming, part 3Seconds – the first time I saw this I was overwhelmed by the sinister-ness of it all, and this time I was overwhelmed by the sadness. Arthur Hamilton can barely get the words out in the office when he’s opening up to the crushing emptiness of his life. He’s being manipulated, but it also comes across as someone finally verbalizing what they’ve felt and known for a long time now. Rock Hudson’s first appearance, when he looks at his own surgically created face for the first time, and numerous emotions simultaneously coarse through him, is masterful. And Murray Hamilton’s final appearance is heartbreaking, tears streaming down on his face as he talks to his old/new friend (how much Murray Hamilton knows at this point is one of the film’s great mysteries, and Hamilton conveys all of the emotions without giving away any of the secrets). And the ending is of course sinister as hell, but also heartbreaking – as the doctors begin to drill into his head, Antiocus Wilson flashes back to being on a beach with his young daughter, the only truly wonderful thing from his life as Arthur Hamilton, and one that he was not allowed to bring with him (notice how Will Geer doesn’t dismiss the importance of Hamilton’s daughter the way he does with Hamilton’s job and wife as he’s talking to him – he has to let Arthur talk himself out of that one). Technique-wise, I’m really on awe of Frankenheimer on these last two features. Seconds could not look more different from The Train, full of canted camera angles and disorienting close-ups – it’s almost Terry Gilliam-esque in its ability to conjure up bizarre, disorienting moods. It also amuses me to no end that Arthur Hamilton was played by John Randolph, who would, decades later, play Frank Costanza once, then never again; even the one episode he did appear in was re-shot with Jerry Stiller for syndication, so most people have never seen him unless they bought the show on dvd. I find it funny to imagine that Tony Wilson’s fate happened to Randolph in real life – after the disastrous first go at things, he shows back up at NBC, full of ideas about what he’d like to do differently with the character, and Larry David just humors him with folksy charm until the writers strap him down to a stretcher and wheel him away, never to be seen again.

      Grand Prix – Oh God. Frankie, what happened? (I can call you Frankie, can’t I?) After such a hot streak, JF crashes and burns (hey, a racing joke!) with this one. Let’s get the very very good out of the way first – the racing scenes are simply amazing – technically marvelous, excellently edited (both with the visuals and the sound), gorgeous and visceral in equal measure. But the character stuff, dear God. It’s not just that it’s not as good as the racing footage – the character stuff is awful. All of this stems from the pitiful screenplay, which is hacky and overwritten all the way throughout. The actors do what they can, and Jessica Walter comes perilously close to giving a good performance, but everything is so talky and false-sounding that nothing helps. You can practically feel the actors struggling with the dialogue anytime they have more than one sentence to say. And *everything* is like this – even the dialogue during the racing scenes is problematic, and the film never even accidentally has a scene that kind of works. I have to admit, I couldn’t finish this one – after an hour I just skipped to the racing scenes and called it a day. While the screenplay is the movie’s biggest problem, it’s rather disheartening that JF is on autopilot for everything not a racing segment. Scene after scene is draggy and aimless, and JF isn’t really doing anything to help things along. It’s pretty, to be sure, but the editing is disappointingly conventional, and JF seems content to just point the camera and let it all play out straight. Maybe he didn’t know what to do to make it work, maybe he thought that the beautiful Cinerama footage would make it interesting, or maybe he felt that he didn’t need to bother too much with it for the film to do well at the box office (it certainly wouldn’t be the only 60’s epic with marvelous visuals and lousy character stuff that made a lot of money). Whatever the reason, it’s terrible, and all the marvelous racing footage can’t keep the movie from being a horrible bore.

      • Son of Griff

        Randolph’s career, along with Will Geers, was derailed due the blacklist. They remained prominent figures in the L.A. theater scene, and this film got them back into steady character work, with Geer getting a regular slot in THE WALTONS and Randolph ultimately getting a semi-regular shot on ROSEANNE after the SEINFELD set back. It’s been a very long time since I saw this, but I wonder if there is a subtext to the casting choices here.

        • silverwheel

          There probably is – Jeff Corey (Mr. Ruby) was another blacklisted actor.

          • Son of Griff

            I’ll look into it.

    • Twin Peaks – No.

      No, really…no.

      Leading up to the finale, I was skeptical of what Lynch was doing with the myth of Laura Palmer. I did not need more of her story. I always got that Dale once dreamed of her as the next victim and regretted that he couldn’t stop her death, but I didn’t need more of her story. I didn’t need her turning into a grand myth as in episode 8. And I most certainly never wanted Dale Cooper to go back in time and try to save her from her fate. That’s a really sad and pathetic fantasy.

      But, dragging Alternate Laura back to the house where she was traumatized so she was forced to remember her past?! What the fucking fuck, David Lynch?!!? Why the fuck would you do that to that poor girl? And retconning the pilot? What does that accomplish? Most of the series’ actions were still happening without Laura’s death – Ben running Jacks, the Ghostwood development would have continued on, Catherine would have continued destroying plant as would Josie destroying Catherine, Leo sold drugs long before Laura, etc. she was just a symbol of that rot. Saving her would have done nothing. And it does accomplish nothing. So, why show that?

      I don’t know what I expected from the finale. I was guessing we weren’t going to get answers. But, goddammit, I wanted something more concrete. Audrey’s narrative (along with Billy et al) went nowhere. The New York narrative went nowhere. The Buenos Aires box was just a thing that happened.

      Look, I don’t need everything to fit together, but was “Richard and Linda” a clue left on the cutting room floor. Is 4:30 in response to the text? What the hell did he do to Audrey? Who is Billy?!!?

      There are so many narratives that weren’t just left open ended but completely undeveloped. That was not a Twin Peaks norm until Chet Desmond and Philip Jeffries. But, Lynch always said PJ (if not CD) was set up for season 3. I guess I just expected more answers (which isn’t the same as closure).

      • lgauge

        “Richard and Linda” were, it seems, parallel reality versions of Dale and Diane, as evidenced by the letter Cooper finds when he wakes up at the motel (addressed to Richard, from Linda). 430 were the number of miles they had to drive from Twin Peaks to get to the point where they could cross over. The New York narrative and the Buenos Aires box were presumably just small details that expanded the world, but had no importance to the narrative. Audrey and Billy, who knows?

        I do think that what happened with Laura was very intentionally meant to be bad things, done by Cooper out of a misguided sense of protectionism. By “robbing” her of her death, he also (per Fire Walk With Me) robbed her of her redemption and escape from BOB. The fact that it didn’t really even work just makes it worse. The final version of Cooper/Richard seems to be a very cold and mechanical version. Perhaps one that’s gone through the loop of trying to save Laura many times and can barely even remember anything about himself or others, just a feeling that he has to find Laura and bring her “home”. It’s an endless cycle, not this time caused by evil, but caused by unintentionally malicious “good”. We already saw signs of this in Fire Walk With Me, when he told her not to take the ring (which turned out to be bad advice).

        If you feel this was too cruel a fate for the character(s), that’s fair, but I do believe Lynch knew exactly what he was doing with the end of Part 17 and most of 18.

        • I know what he’s doing, but why? What was his purpose in doing this?

          Is he commenting on people obsessing over Twin Peaks? The full length of Season One, including the pilot, was literally 430 minutes (the original non-pilot S1 box set said length was 336min + 94 minute pilot). Maybe he’s commenting on our obsessive rewatching in New York as we strive to retraumatize a character by rewatching a series. This also comes through with James’ rendition of Just You with the zombie twins.

          Is he saying that we secretly want Dale to save an already traumatized Laura, preventing her redemption in Fire Walk With Me?

          I’m struggling with why David Lynch put these characters – namely Dale and Laura – through the ringer again. What is he wanting to convey?

          • From the start one of the popular theories about the season went that it is (among other things) a self-reflexive work about itself and about the way people watch something like it – staring into the glass box, etc. The finale, then, can be seen as Lynch and Frost’s, uh, final rumination on the very notion of bringing Twin Peaks back after 25 years. Dale’s obsession with Laura Palmer is his downfall; by trying so far as to save her by retconning her murder, he blows everything up, and in the end neither he, nor Diane, nor Laura, are the same characters anymore. Neither is the town, and neither is the show. In other words, on both character- and meta-level it is broadly about the anxieties and dangers that lie in retreating sacred old ground.

            The troubling (for me at least) question is: were those anxieties well-founded? If you look at it from a certain angle, you could see it as cowardly that Lynch and Frost had complete creative control yet straight-up refused to imagine, for example, what Audrey’s actual life would be 25 years later, and only really working with the image of her as it’s remembered from the original series, not with her as a person, whoever that person might be. Should they have challenged themselves and tried to use Part 18 to create a plausible picture of Cooper who reunites with the old characters, meets the new ones, drinks a cup of coffee, and moves on to fight evils such as Red and Judy, instead of succumbing to his obsession – to the very reason he even exists as a fictional character in the first place? (After all, if Laura Palmer is never murdered, Cooper never appears in Twin Peaks. There’s no show.)

            On the other hand, Lynch has always been outspoken about how he loves nothing more than a mystery, and it’s only natural that, given complete creative control, he leaves as many doors open as he possibly can. Happy endings are given to characters for whom further existence in a state of mystery and inconclusiveness is pointless/cruel – Janey-E and Sonny Jim, Ed and Norma and Nadine – but only they are rewarded. (Also, BOB is dispatched.) And all those things that seemed to be actively going somewhere – the creature in the glass box, the box in Buenos Aires, Red’s drugs, Becky, Billy, Audrey, the dialogue scenes in the Roadhouse, the vomiting child, the demon inside Sarah, etc. – it seems obvious to me in retrospect that they were never there for plot-related reasons, but only served to provide atmospheric, often emotionally charged snippets of life in this new world that’s full of mystery that will remain a mystery. Because a mystery is always better and more powerful than a resolution.

      • Belated Comebacker

        How to know when you’ve hit upon a great Julius Kassendorf comment:

        When you don’t even need to look at the Spoiler Space, and you still get a laugh out of it.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 7, Episode 2, “Vehicular Fellatio.” I can’t remember if I’d seen this before or not, but I was certain I hadn’t seen all of the “Seinfeld Season,” so I wanted to make sure I caught up on it before season 9 debuted (I have seen season 8). Anyway, it’s really funny in the style of the best Curb episodes, where minor annoyances or social conventions are blown wildly out of proportion, where Larry is both relateable and still an asshole, and where a good running gag ties into a number of the episode’s scenes and plots. And hey, at least Leon is sticking around!

      I read the AV Club review. Amelie Gillette seems to have much more distaste for Cheryl than I do.

  • pico79

    I was really, really loving Ingrid Goes West – at its best, it lands some deep cuts at the expense of social media, the L.A. lifestyle, and films about both – until it makes a disastrous plotting decision near the back end, and crashes and burns from there. I can almost imagine exactly how it went down with the writers: Hey, we’ve got a great setup and dynamic going here, but we don’t have enough incident. What if we introduce a plot complication – say, blackmail – and just see where it takes us? Awful judgment, and it makes the last act so toxic that it retrospectively ruined the movie for me.

    • Son of Griff

      I wonder how many times the unmotivated, end- of- the- second- act- plot complication results from the process of the script being written forward without a particularly strong inciting problem, or whether the inciting problem was the initial inspiration for the story that remained once the screenplay took a different form. Sometimes, I wonder if, because we watch a film unfold in linear time, we assume that the manner in which it was written and filmed did so as well.

      • pico79

        That’s fair, but I’m basing that on the fact that the first 2/3 are really subtle and complex (even when the satire itself is broad), while the perfunctory, shallow last third is feels like a rushed draft by comparison. The film’s big ideas find their most complete expression around the midpoint, and it’s hard to shake the feeling of “The filmmakers didn’t know where to go from there.” Of course it could have happened the other way around, but it’s harder to imagine that playing out.

    • I can see how the plot doesn’t work for you, but I’ll say this: the brother is pitch-perfect both from an acting and a writing standpoint. The things he says and the way he says them… oh man, it just nails “douchebag” with so much specificity so quickly.

      • pico79

        The character, absolutely. I thought the film overall had a really good, really subtle grasp of these types until that Big Moment sends everything veering off into space. There’s a good bit of All About Eve in the movie’s DNA, too. I was worried for a bit that they were making the husband the authorial stand-in by giving him that poolside speech about authenticity, but he’s so thoroughly undercut by the shallowness and hypocrisy of his art that it keeps that scene from being too heavy-handed.

        • Yeah, that husband is a real phony, and I think one of the few unequivocal successes of the end is that we see what he did later on with his career.

          I also love just how subtle a grasp of social media culture the movie has, too, right down to the ways that the characters interact online. There’s a real eye for the microtrends of our current moment that I found hilarious, and it will make the movie interesting viewing in a year or two when none of the social media references make sense anymore.

          • pico79

            Oh god yes, down to the instagram-based B&B, which feels like the natural evolution of commodified identity-curation. If that’s not a real thing already, or soon to be, I’d be surprised.

      • pico79

        Incidentally, Billy Magnussen is making quite a name for himself as “white guy inserted into Asian stories for no conceivable reason.” He was cast as the fictional Caucasian student of Bruce Lee in Birth of the Dragon (Why? Who knows) and was just cast as a new character, “Prince Anders” (?!?!) in Disney’s Aladdin.

    • Belated Comebacker

      Curious about how this film, where social media is a relatively stable, known phenomenon, compares to “The Social Network,” where we witness the invention of one of the big social media platforms before that really becomes a part of daily life.

      • pico79

        I’d say this film deals a lot with the performative aspect of social media – the deliberate crafting of an ideal self through online curation – and what questions that raises re: authenticity (if that’s even a thing), and what that means for interpersonal relationships. It’s not saying anything particularly sophisticated, but it gets so much mileage out of pitting various “types” against one another, and the friction between them allows us to see even deeper layers of hypocrisy. At its best, the satire is dripping with acid.

        On the flipside, the film’s most deeply human moment comes from a character explaining the roots of his pop culture obsession, so the movie’s not just a luddite rejection of these things, either.

        • Belated Comebacker

          Hmmm…I would say that’s an intriguing premise, along with Nerd In the Basement’s glowing coverage of Aubrey Plaza’s performance, but I’m still not sure this is a movie I need to see, especially given what you’ve said about that ending.

  • I dunno if anyone’s around to read this, but… seems like good news for Episode IX, and bad news for the future of idiosyncratic directors in general in the new Star Wars Cinematic Universe. I’ve got mixed feelings about that.


    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      At least with this bit of news, it…kind of makes sense from a creative perspective (I was bummed about Lord/Miller getting fired). I liked Safety Not Guaranteed but Trevorrow has some clearly bad instincts and Book of Henry by all accounts was batshit crazy. He’s the prime example of a blockbuster director without much experience who probably shouldn’t be making them.

      BTW props to Jordan Vogt-Roberts for going on the Honest Trailer for Kong: Skull Island and going pretty in depth on the movie’s flaws. Also another point for saying Cinema Sins is garbage.

      • Ha. I need to see that Honest Trailer.

        But yeah. I’m not bummed about Trevorrow specifically (I didn’t even like Safety Not Guaranteed), but I don’t like what this says about Disney’s approach to Star Wars. Not that it’s surprising how conservative they’re being with their “creative vision,” but it’s kind of a bummer to see it happen.

        • thesplitsaber

          I mean if they get someone on Ron Howards level (or you know Ron Howard) ill be fine with it.

      • Belated Comebacker

        Book of Henry by all accounts was batshit crazy

        Having seen this, I can confirm its craziness.

    • The Narrator

      Trevorrow’s definitely been playing this at full volume for the last two hours.


  • thesplitsaber

    ‘If Ingrid Goes West was made just two decades ago, Ingrid would have had the same personality, she just would have had, like, a journal to keep disturbingly detailed notes on people she wants to be friends with or she’d spy on them via a pair of binoculars.’

    I believe this is what youre looking for https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV1YuMsPO88