• Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      LOST, Season Three, Episode Three, “Further Instructions”
      “Hair spray? Now, I hate to be the one to point this out to you, but…”

      “I’m sorry. Sorry I ever doubted you. Sorry I gave up on my faith in the island. I messed up. Now our people are captured – if I’d just listened to you – if I’d just let you keep pushing the button. I could have gone with them, protected them. I could have saved them.”

      Locke’s faith in the island is renewed almost immediately, and he goes on a vision quest to figure out what to do next, which has helped me clarify the difference between a pure rationalist atheist, a pure spiritualistism person, and me, who generally identifies with the former but sees an appeal in the latter enough to often get frustrated with other rationalist atheists. It would never occur to me to specifically say “I need to solve this problem by sitting in a tent and meditating until an island tells me what to do”, but vision quests in fiction excite and stimulate me, because trying to see connections between ideas and facts is basically how I think; the difference is outside fiction I don’t see someone putting it there for me. Seeing it in a show like Lost makes it familiar enough to grasp but different enough to be novel.

      I said that Locke was motivated by abstract concepts, and I was wrong. He’s motivated by the idea of serving something bigger than himself. His problem is that he keeps trying to serve people, who are always flawed and are always using him – he’s not like Jack, who gets enough of a kick out of helping people that he’ll always do it, he’s not like Sayid, who’s savvy enough to help and lead people without being used as much, and he’s not like Hurley, who’s perfectly comfortable taking a number two position; from this perspective, it makes sense that he’d turn to the island, which is inhuman enough to trust. I can empathise with that, even if I wouldn’t do what he does.

      This is the closest thing this show could have to a bottle episode, being almost exclusively focused on John and Charlie; like 75% of the script is Charlie making quips. Like I said, it’s not something the show can really pull off, and it contributes to the whole thing feeling slower. We also get our first sighting of Nikki and Paulo.

      Ownage: John owns a bear with a flamethrower.

      Hugo
      This is the exact reverse of The Dapahted, in that a lot of the themes are things that really bake my potatoes – trains, the fantasy of living in a clocktower, the silent era of cinema, a Sacha Baron Cohen performance in someone else’s movie – and yet the movie as a whole bores me. Mainly, this is because I’m just not interested in children’s movies – and I think this is a perfectly solid children’s adventure movie, despite people thinking kids are too dumb to comprehend the fairly straightforward exposition on old movies.

      I always enjoy how playful actors’ performances become when they’re opposite children; SBC stands out, because he’s a brilliant actor who tends to get caught up in his own skill when he works on his own stuff but gains focus and clarity under other directors, and especially under Scorsese.

      This is a rare case of a children’s story making dead parents a genuinely bad thing. Harry Potter’s dead parents are the typical approach here – distant, vague, no personality, just the general abstraction of parents. Jude Law is a full human being, and when we see him die, we see that Hugo specifically and the world in general has lost something valuable, and it adds a layer of desperation to Hugo’s adventure.

      NaNoWriMo Update: Yeah, another failure. But, I’m further than I ever got, and I think the reasons I crashed were that I wasn’t prepared enough and I botched the conception (worst, WORST mistake that I won’t make again: I didn’t work out each character’s opening statement of morality – their equivalent to the phrase “Whatever’s between zero and the city-mandated minimum? We’ll call that the Billings.”).

      (Come to think of it, one of the things that made season one Shield both great and flawed was how it allowed the characters to make their grand moral statements and make them offhand – “Get over it. Don’t bring it up again,” is an obvious one, but I was always shocked by how offhand “I just like to solve puzzles” was.)

      • I am interested in children’s movies (although it sounds weird put like that) and I still found Hugo a bit underwhelming. I loved the silent cinema stuff, but as a whole it definitely felt like it didn’t do a very good job of combining all those interesting ingredients into a satisfying whole. Also, it’s been a while, but I remember thinking Chloe Moretz made a right mess of her accent.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Moretz was shockingly blah in it, which is weird as she’s one of my favorite guest actors in 30 Rock (“The ocean is for TOOLS”).

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Hugo is indeed fine. I don’t know why I don’t love it, it just doesn’t grab me like other Scorsese movies do, even if I do enjoy it. Cohen is my favorite part though and proof that he’s an uncannily subtle actor if given the means (his little melancholy burst of awareness in front of Mortimer about his leg is wonderful).

      • Jake Gittes

        Hugo is the only Scorsese I’ve seen that I straight-up didn’t like. From what I recall, underneath all the flashy effects and plot scaffolding it ended up essentially being a film preservation PSA, and while I’m 100% on Scorsese’s side here, the execution of that stuff in the movie just came across as awkward – like it was smuggled in so he could read us all a lesson. And even the effects aren’t too great – the gratuitous 3D, like that endless shot of papers falling on the floor, was tiresome even back then, and I imagine it’s aged like milk.

        Glad you noted SBC though – he’s arguably the best actor in both Sweeney Todd and this, and could do phenomenal work with the right material and directorial guidance. I’m still bummed he didn’t get to star in a proper R-rated Freddie Mercury biopic.

        • Absolutely, I’d have loved to see him as Freddie. Very disappointed that didn’t happen.

          Even though I loved the silent film stuff, I agree that it was awkwardly stuffed into the movie.

    • Loving – I’m a big fan of Jeff Nichols’ previous films, but I’ll admit that my first thought when this one was announced was that it felt a little like he was swerving off his career path in an attempt to get some awards recognition. I should have had more faith, because it’s actually a perfect use of his subtle, heartfelt style, which somehow works just as well for a sci-fi thriller as it does for this tender, romantic drama. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton are both wonderful, and it’s a handsome film. Aside from a slight feeling that Nick Kroll doesn’t quite fit into the film quite as well as everyone else, my only real complaint is yet another terrible end-credits song from the director’s mediocre brother. I hate that guy.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        His brother is Frank Stallone?

        • He wishes.

        • glorbes

          You guessed it.

      • Jake Gittes

        Nick Kroll definitely derailed parts of it for me – and based on the rest of the film and Nichols’ general sensibility I could even give him enough benefit of the doubt to believe that he deliberately played up the inspirational-period-drama tropes in Kroll’s scenes to contrast their artificiality with the quiet natural life of the Lovings, but that still doesn’t make his scenes any less exasperating to watch. When it’s just centered on Richard and Mildred, though, it’s so lovely – I was hooked straight from the opening shot. Nichols is perfect for their story because you can trust him to depict them as the people they really were, and not pander to modern audiences by making them more active or outraged or whatever. Ruth Negga richly deserved her Oscar nod, and Edgerton should have had one too.

    • lgauge

      Evolution: Like some weird hyper-Freudian childhood nightmare.

      Immediately it becomes clear that this is a film interested in the evocation of moments and sensations, with little regard for temporal rigidity or conventional plot. The opening shot with the underwater plants swaying in the current is reminiscent of similar shots in Tarkovsky’s Solaris and I don’t think he’s a bad reference point here, though the film eventually delves into a very physical and disturbing realm that bears little resemblance to his, in general more spiritual, works. I love the use of color and light in the film, from small details like how the red bathing suit of the main character stands out very clearly against the golden grey background of the Mediterranean rocks and the pale blue ocean, to how gorgeously lit many of the scenes are. Hadžihalilović creates a fascinating small world here, one that despite complete alienation from anything resembling normal society slowly becomes understandable as we dig ever deeper into its disturbing foundations, yet never leaves behind the realm of disturbing suggestion. There’s certainly a version of this film that’s very literal, where the world and its characters are put into some context, but I can’t imagine it would be particularly interesting. As it is, the film kept a firm grasp on my attention with its rapturous images and perplexing narrative and character construction.

      I’m not sure the film is saying all that much about anything, but as a film experience it’s quite lovely and unique. Its construction reminded me at times of a dream or two I had as a young child. Nightmares that were never quite scary, but rather instilled weird feelings that I couldn’t quite comprehend. Thoughts and sensations that I can sort of put into structures as an adult, but that back then seemed as if originating in some netherworld. I don’t recall being put back into quite that headspace before and I’m somewhat in awe that the film was able to do so. I’m also really annoyed that I missed this last year, because I would definitely have been championing it among the year’s lesser acclaimed smaller works.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        Hey, I’ve seen this! I strongly disliked it in the moment, but as I sat on it for months it slowly grew on me – part of the reason I disliked it was that I’d been told way too much about the ‘plot’, which meant I had a heads up on ‘developments’ like the pregnancy thing, and in a film which isn’t interested in character, plot, or theme, taking away my ability to slowly build up my own interpretation was death for it.

        I suspect if I’d gone in knowing literally nothing, I would have liked it a lot more, and the upshot of all this was that it upended my view on spoilers completely; normally, I roll my eyes at people whining about being spoiled, because I feel that if the movie can be totally ruined by knowing a plot twist, it’s a bad movie, and yet here is a movie that genuinely benefits from the audience knowing absolutely nothing going in aside from that it’s going to be a weird French movie.

        • lgauge

          Part of the reason for this reversal might be that in plot-heavy movies, a lot of the excitement is in how plot point A connects with plot point B and of course how characters react to all this. Whereas with a movie like this, which could be summarized by one or two sentences + “and then it gets even weirder…”, it’s not so much that knowing what will happen is bad in terms of “spoiling” the overall narrative, it’s that knowing ruins your ability to be lead along by the film because you can’t help but imagine your own version and be disappointed (whether or not the real thing is “better” or not) when things don’t turn out the way you imagined.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Yeah, exactly. It also means I have less initial confusion at things – I see medical procedures and immediately think “Oh, that’ll be part of the pregnancy thing.

        • For some reason I went into it thinking it was going to be a weird Belgian movie, which I like to think gave it an additional touch of magic.

      • It’s such a fantastic looking film, especially all the underwater stuff. The details of the plot are already mostly gone from my mind but there are plenty of striking images that have stuck with me. I remember feeling like the closest comparison I could draw after watching was to Upstream Color, but even that is a way off (and I liked Evolution quite a bit more)

        • lgauge

          I absolutely love Upstream Color and only really liked this, but that’s a good comparison I think. To me it’s that kind of contemplative plot-light art-house film (which I also tried to get at with my Tarkovsky reference), combined with a both disturbing and somehow a little bit weirdly sensual, always very physical, body horror a la some Cronenberg and some strains of modern French cinema. Upstream is good as a first approximation since it too has both of these, though Evolution leans a bit more into the physical whereas I think that one is more about a kind of mental or spiritual despair (where the physical component is mostly an initial trigger).

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        The abstraction of everything really makes it feel like a child’s memory of things – the core images are striking but the narrative, what really happened, is obscure, like my own memories as a kid.

      • Jake Gittes

        Hadžihalilović’s earlier Innocence is basically this but 30 minutes longer, starring girls (and Marion Cotillard), and with a subtler but still palpable strangeness about it, and naturally is strongly recommended.

      • The Ploughman

        Before I forget to say it again, I really like how you do recaps/mini-reviews.

        • lgauge

          Thank you. That’s very nice to hear.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

      I get frustrated with the Marvel formula (no stakes + no strong
      emotions -good third act= I’m…probably gonna forget this one) but the Guardians movies work because Gunn feels like the one director there who can
      put his own personal stamp on the movies. Like his weirder indie works these movies still feel cathartic and emotional, an exorcism of trash-pop and the feelings that go into them rather than just kitsch. Guardians 2 has problems – the third act goes on for way too long and like a lot of other Marvel films there’s no goddamn room to breathe with all the jokes, even when they’re hilarious – but the ending is deeply powerful and makes this a complete story (my own dad is having health problems and I got teary at least when Yondu says “He was your father, but he ain’t your daddy”). The key to Gunn’s
      movies is what Yondu does: he uses his heart.

      • There have been plenty of Marvel films I’ve enjoyed, but the formula you mention generally makes them feel extremely disposable, and I can’t see myself ever deliberately revisiting any of them. The GotG films break that formula enough that I’d happily rewatch either of them any time, and in our current superhero-saturated world I mean that as high praise.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I was genuinely surprised that this one DOESN’T end in a rousing moment of triumph, but in grieving, catharsis and emotional bonding. It was frankly awesome and really refreshing.

          • Especially since one of my least favourite tropes of the Marvel films is that when a character dies, it’s usually a (tedious, wearying) fake-out. GotG2 makes it actually matter, and it’s beautiful.

      • Jake Gittes

        The ending alone might have clinched this as my favorite Marvel movie, even though the CG overload in the preceding half-hour nearly gave me a migraine. (Of course the soundtrack and the colors don’t hurt either.) Yay for complete stories.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Yeah its quite a lot of CGI – I feel like they could’ve cut, like ten minutes from the last forty minutes.

    • Delmars Whiskers

      The Incredible Hulk–A solidly decent, unremarkable action movie, at once more generic and more distinctive than the Marvel movies to come. Blessedly free of infinity stones, if nothing else.

    • clytie

      Internet shows! I caught up on One Hit Wonderland, Browns Held High, Redacted Tonight, and, of course, The Jimmy Dore Show

      The Brows Held High about The Love Witch is fantastic. Kyle Kallgren’s discussion about elevating the feminine puts into words something I’ve thought, but never could accurately describe.

      If you have time, I highly recommend it.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQqbuZIv1DA&t=639s

    • Defense Against The Dark Arts

      I finished Stranger Things 2. Boy that last episode had more endings than Return of the King. Over all I enjoyed this season. The story line didn’t have the pull of the first season, but the kid characters are very charming. I just hope in season 3 they leave Will alone, that poor kid’s been through enough.

    • The Narrator

      Mistress America: Yeah, big surprise. This movie gets even funnier and even sadder every time I watch it.

      Damsels in Distress: That last statement might actually apply to this movie too! And this has what I am confident is one of the greatest endings of any movie ever, if not the greatest.

    • The Flash: “…Therefore I Am.” We learn the secrets of the season’s husband and wife villain team, Clifford Devoe, aka the Thinker, and Marlize Devoe. The performances by Neil Sandilands and Kim Engelbrecht are amazing apart and together, and I think we have a chance of this show getting its first really great villains since Reverse Flash.

  • Delmars Whiskers

    Broadway Danny Rose is a wonderful, wonderful movie, and may I just say one of the things I love about this site is that we can recommend and discuss Woody Allen movies as movies without getting into…all that other stuff.

  • The Ploughman

    Thanksgiving gratitude thread. Non-celebrators welcome.

    In the midst of day after day of disappointing and aggravating news out of Hollywood, what films/shows/artists are you most thankful for? Always reliable output or unexpected encounters – what’s made you feel good (or at least momentarily okay) about watching at this point in history?

    • Defense Against The Dark Arts

      Good question. For the reliable/consistent output I’m going to say The Simpsons. It’s been around for a majority of my life. Up or down, good or bad, on Sunday nights at 8 PM there will be a new episode. In addition, if I choose to watch any of the 17 seasons that I have on DVD it’s like wrapping myself in a warm blanket. I’m also thankful that I’ve brainwashed my daughter into liking it too.

    • The Narrator

      This is the most “no duh” answer I could possibly give, but I’m sincerely thankful for Greta Gerwig’s output as an actress, writer, and now director, the best of which gives me joy like nothing else (it’s not for nothing she’s responsible for three or four of my favorite movies of the century thus far).

    • Rob Thomas of Veronica Mars and iZombie, who first reworked California noir for the present day and then reinvented zombies.

      Kristen Bell, star of the aforementioned VM and also of the amazing sitcom, The Good Place.

      Michael Schur, for The Good Place as well.

      Greg Berlanti and his set of superhero shows (though hoping that the shows can thrive without Andrew Kreisberg).

      Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot, for Wonder Woman.

      The various members of the Chris Collective, all of whom seem to be incredibly decent people as well as great at playing superheroes.

      The people who run the Kanopy streaming service.

      • The Ploughman

        Ooh, yes. Kanopy and all the library-oriented streaming services like Hoopla.

    • “Let’s put our heads together and start a new country up. . .”

      Every artist from John Winthrop to Bret Harte (how many times have I read “Dickens in Camp” in the last month or so?) to Thomas Pynchon to Lin-Manuel Miranda who took America as their subject, who told the story of what it was as a way of making it what it could be.

      • Defense Against The Dark Arts

        Sorry to be so persnickety, but it’s Bret “The Hitman” Harte.

    • The Ploughman

      A bit of hope for old dogs learning new tricks. Disney is as imperfect as any behemoth (and recent rumblings around the Pixar end are very concerning), but the new run at female characters indicates somebody has been listening, culminating in Moana, a film about an ostensible princess but one with her own agency and authority who finds her way relying on her own bravery and creativity. Something I’m happy to watch with my daughter in a way that I haven’t been moved to do with other “princess” movies.

      • glorbes

        Rey too.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      This is from a post I wrote at the Avocado on the “What Pop Culture Are We Thankful For?” Topic. I kept my answers to things I was thankful for this year.

      I’m thankful that we got anything at all from Twin Peaks: The Return, let alone that what we got was so mesmerizing.

      I’m thankful for Review and Vice Principals both getting proper finishes. I’m thankful that the first season of Detroiters and the twelfth season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia were so surprisingly good. I’m thankful that we got another season of Curb Your Enthusiasm after six years, and that it’s still very funny.

      I’m thankful for a wide variety of great comedy on TV otherwise, too. There’s hardly room to list it all here, so I just made note of the most surprising / delightful ones.

      In older music: I’m thankful for the discography of The Police, the brief but glorious existence of Suburban Lawns, and “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie. In newer music: Eddie Vedder’s “Running Out of Sand.”

      In standup: Bill Burr’s Walk Your Way Out, Norm Macdonald’s Hitler’s Dog, Gossip and Trickery, and, most especially and surprisingly, Patton Oswalt’s Annihilation.

      I’m thankful for Chapo Trap House, a little beacon of sanity in what often seems like an insane world.

      And I’m thankful for my community. That means my wife, my family, my close friends, my fellow comedians, my fellow football writers, my community of like-minded political people both here and online, my co-workers and regulars at the bar, the communities at my other Internet hideouts, and all of you, of course.

    • Delmars Whiskers

      Kedi probably gave me more pure bliss than any other media this year. I saw it shortly after putting my own beloved psychokitty down, and it actually helped me sort out some feelings–about my cat, and about the larger world, too.

    • clytie

      Frank Valentini, EP of General Hospital, who reign has brought us (well, me), A Tale of Two Jasons, Brucus, the best gay couple in the history of daytime TV, and the introduction of Valentin Cassadine, one the most interesting and dynamic characters on all of TV.

    • Jake Gittes

      David Lynch and Richard Linklater, for creating some of the most… generous works of cinema and TV around, in very different ways. The former, in particular, for achieving this partly by establishing such a safe and warm (by all accounts) on-set environment that he and his collaborators are free to plumb some very dark depths without fear or uncertainty, with cathartic results.

      Paul Verhoeven (I just watched Starship Troopers the other day, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a film that’s so entertaining and depressing simultaneously) for being so ruthlessly clear-eyed about the world he sees, and showing it in his best work with such verve and wit and intelligence.

      James Joyce and John Huston, for The Dead.

      Craig Ferguson, who I first discovered a little over a year ago at the end of a long, long day when I’d had my cat put down, and whose Late Late Show has served as my go-to YouTube hole to fall down in ever since.

      Judy Garland, for being the kind of unexpected encounter that might only happen once in a lifetime – someone I never would have thought twice just nine months ago, and now would call the most talented, most watchable, most charismatic person to ever step in front of a movie camera.

      • If you haven’t seen Ferguson’s defense of Britney Spears, it’s wonderful. In the depths of her breakdown, when she was the favorite punching bag of comics and tabloids, he instead empathized with her and discussed his own substance abuse problems.

        • YES. I remember that, and it made a huge impact of me and how I view celebrity news. His Late Late Show was my favorite late-night show for a long while, and I miss it terribly.

        • Jake Gittes

          I have and it is indeed something else.

      • A. Square

        I grappled with insomnia for nearly a decade, and everything about it sucked – except for those five hours a week I got to spend with Craig, Geoff, Secretariat, Kristen Bell, and the dense web of in-jokes, running gags, extemporaneous riffing, heartfelt storytelling, and a particular restless curiosity about the world, that is rare to find in television period, much less the chat show format. It felt like home, and though I can now turn off the light and sleep like a normal human being, I still feel the hole in my life where I got to soak in cozy weirdness before sailing off into the night.

        • Jake Gittes

          Yeah, I can see it. (The “It felt like home” thing about it.) I’ve been rewatching all the Kristen Bell interviews in order for the past couple of days and it’s so good. On the whole it might be the only late night talk show worth having in full season DVDs. More fun, weird and heartfelt than most scripted TV comedies.

  • Agent Zeke Kelso

    “Broadway Danny Rose” may be Woody Allen’s funniest movie and still manages to pack an emotional wallop at the end. Absolutely brilliant in every way.

    Danny: “What’d you do, you divorced him, or got a separation, or what?”
    Tina: “Nah, some guy shot him in the eyes.”
    Danny: “Really? He’s blind?”
    Tina: “Dead.”
    Danny: “Dead. Of course, ’cause the bullets go right through.”