• What did we watch last night?

    • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Good, but I probably would’ve enjoyed it more had I not seen The Nice Guys first. It’s a little too clever, with the self-referencing, and maybe that was Black settling into writing-directing for the first time? But it’s not bad, just that Black did better next time around. Also Robert Downey Jr’s patter is better when he’s a nervy, paranoid loser than billionaire playboy philanthropist.

      • DJ JD

        I think my personal archetypical “RDJ role” is his work in A Scanner Darkly. His intelligence was clearly conveyed, but his jittery patter (“patter” is the best word ever for what he does) perfectly served his neurosis the self-destructive arc of his character. Some of his other roles feel like a watered-down version of that to me, including Tony Stark.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          It’s a darker, rougher version of that persona (which he excels at) and I think it’s more clear in Darkly that Downey’s patter is just utter bullshit – funny, entertaining, but bullshit.

          • DJ JD

            One of the things I like best about that particular character of his is that it captures how a person with almost no moral core to him can still be so, so destructive and dangerous in his own way. We’re so accustomed to seeing villains painted as badasses (a la Darth Vader) that we lose sight of how it usually looks in the real world.

          • [insert topical political joke here]

          • DJ JD

            I wasn’t actually thinking about that for once, I swear!

          • Miller

            His backstabbing is really terrible, especially in how unnecessary it is.

          • John Bruni

            My favorite quote from him in the film: “Alright, I’m gonna give you a little feedback since you seem to be proceeding through life like a cat without whiskers perpetually caught behind the refrigerator. Your life and watching you live it is like a gag-reel of ineffective bodily functions.”

            I wrote about it a few years ago: http://www.the-solute.com/halloween-psych-out-part-4-a-scanner-darkly/

        • That’s one of my favorite SF movies & my fav PKD adaptation.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            It’s totally the most dead on PKD film.

          • Linklater said he wanted to actually adapt A Scanner Darkly and not just use the idea as a jumping-off point for a sci-fi adventure, like pretty much every other Dick adaptation. There is just no substitute for good Dick.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I see what you did there.

      • lgauge

        I saw this on the plane recently and felt pretty much exactly the same as you.

    • Drunk Napoleon

      Mad Men, Season Five, Episodes One to Six
      Divided this season in half because I had work in the morning, so I didn’t have time to watch the whole thing. Don’t cry for me, I’m already dead.

      Everyone is in a position where they should be happy, and they are a little, but it’s not enough. Shared morality. This season is generally people’s favourite, and the first time through I couldn’t figure out why, but I guess that’s it. In my entire life, I’ve never felt like I should be happy because I was getting what I wanted, which must be it. The characters are all reaching where Don was at the climax of season three – they’ve been living their lifestyles for so long and are really feeling the weight of all those years doing the same thing (most obviously for Pete, who is gaining in gut what he’s losing in hair).

      There’s also the fact that we know who these people are so well, and any pairing of any characters is both great and unique. In trying to replicate Mad Men’s literary approach to writing, I’ve settled on a routine: this is a science fictiony idea, this is how our character feels about it. I see now that Mad Men has been accomplishing the same thing with the Sixties, banging it up against these particular people; now it’s reached the point where it can simply bounce characters off each other as each riffs on the others’ response, and we get some of the most fantastic articulation of these characters’, uh, characters – “Zou Bisou Bisou”, Joan telling off Greg, Pete getting punched, Roger’s LSD trip, and this is barely halfway through.

      The production switched to digital cameras; the tone of the visuals is edgier and the colours are richer and darker. I find it fascinating that Lane becomes occupied with Accounts the way accounts men were becoming preoccupied with creative work in the first few seasons.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        If a lot of 20th/21st century American narratives are about stripping characters of what they had, the 5th season of MM is about having everything back and still being essentially unhappy. So much to unpack here but I love how the Sixties are still in the margins, but they’re coming closer and closer to the characters, creating psychic echoes of actual history or having events be only heard of in passing, discussed. All of this is happening to “other people” and if you were an affluent but ordinary person thats as close as you’ll get to the truth of the thing.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          Come to think of it, the characters do discuss the news way more than they ever used to. You had, like, JFK getting elected and JFK getting shot in the first three seasons; meanwhile this season mentions riots and murderers and stuff all the time.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I love Peggy’s bf and Cooper discussing the war in front of this actual soldier who just wanted to get laid, poor bastard.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            “I thought there’d be girls here.”

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I believe this first chunk also has the massive post Howard Johnson Don-Megan fight, which is just a stunning setpiece of acting for Hamm and Paret.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            That was in the last episode I watched! It was terrifying and sad. Much like the big arguments, it’s all the more terrifying for the fact that this kind of thing only happens, like, once in the entire series.

            It’s funny, actually – for being a gimmick episode where all the stories take place on the same day, it’s surprisingly gentle. I didn’t even realise there was a gimmick until we got to Don’s side of the story.

    • DJ JD

      Just more World of Dance, which continues to delight me. This is the first time I disagreed with the judges, which feels weird because I know even less about dance than I do about Russian art history. (I saw their point about the Jabbawockeez but no way did I think Ian and the boys beat them.) Anyway, there’s something inherently joyful about watching world-class dancers do some world class dance, whatever else is going on.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        You know, this is the one site on the internet where I’d be completely unsurprised that someone would casually know a lot about both dance and Russian art history.

        • DJ JD

          I know we’ve got @pico79:disqus for the one; who’s our dance expert here?

          • pico79

            Synergy: my husband was a superfan of America’s Best Dance Crew, so a long-time Jabbawockeez fan. This show’s somehow been off his radar, but we’ll remedy that!

          • DJ JD

            I hope you do! I am not a good dancer, and my personality is not a dancer’s, and I know basically nothing about dance, and I’m basically the polar opposite of a dancer in every way, AND I usually have a hard time giving a network TV show a fair shake in the first place (“this laddie’s not a fan o’ tha’ pablum”)–and I adore this show.

          • pico79

            Appreciate the recommendation. Thanks!

          • pico79

            Ever out of the loop: turns out the husband is already watching the show and just didn’t mention it to me because he thought I wouldn’t be interested. “Did you hear Jabbawockeez got eliminated? was literally the first thing he said, heh.

          • DJ JD

            Ouch. What did he think of that call?

          • pico79

            He did. “It’s unfortunate, but…. they just weren’t that exciting.”

          • pico79

            And we literally just watched their episode of Master of None tonight. I had no idea they were even on the show. This is a weird convergence of events.

          • DJ JD

            Hah! I had to look it up to figure out what @Miller was even talking about.

      • Miller

        WHAT THE FUCK HOW ARE THOSE MASKED GOONS A THING ON THE TV NOW

        • DJ JD

          My question is, why didn’t they bring their real A-game? I stand by what I said above, but I thought that the comment that the “cannon” was the only part that really jumped out was totally valid. Still, if only for the “rewind” effect they did and the technical skill of their isolations, they should’ve blown ’em out of the water.

          • Miller

            I haven’t seen World of Dance and just know what I saw on Master of None, which was some boring-ass choreography to shit-ass music. Which may have been intentional, but man was it dull.

    • Eight Men Out – The first time I saw this, many years ago, I thought it was the best baseball movie ever made. As a baseball movie, it works well, and it sure lacks the nonsense of a Field of Dreams. But the film’s pacing and episodic nature have not aged well. And I recently read the book this is based on, and can state now that the courtroom aspects of the film are rather truncated and not nearly as interesting as they should have been. This is still a good film with an array of good performances, but it’s not what I thought it was.

      MST3K: Pod People – One of the worst Joel-era films, but also one of the funniest episodes of the show. For years, my brother and I would use the OK sign as secret signifier of “it stinks.”

      Final episodes of Spectacular Spider-Man – I really didn’t want this to end, though the finale left a bit to be desired. Still ranks on the short list of best superhero cartoons.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        Eight Men Out is the movie that really points up John Sayles’ limitations as a filmmaker. As many movies as he’s made, he mostly remains a writer who directs. His script is terrific, his cast is seriously stacked, but he lacks the ability to make the material sing. He’s made some great films–Lone Star, of course, and I’d also say Limbo and The Secret Of Roan Inish–but too often, I wish his always great scripts had been directed by someone else.

        • Son of Griff

          MATEWAN is pretty good too, but I’d generally agree. THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH is a thing of beauty, though. I tear up thinking of the final shot of the mother seal.

      • DJ JD

        My friend and I would randomly say, “You are magic, Trompy!” for years after we saw that one.

      • Miller

        ROCK AND ROLL MARTIAN

      • John Bruni

        Idiot control now!

      • clytie

        I saw Eight Men Out as a teenager because I loved Lone Star and wanted to see more John Sayles movies. I’ve never had the slightest interest in baseball beyond buying Florida (pre-Miami) Marlins clothes because I thought that their logo was cute, and had an extreme and unexpected emotional reaction to it. It was so strong, I’ve never rewatched the movie.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Closer – Two couples fuck and cheat on each other and get back together in a cycle. Pretty good stage play adaptation but I feel like my esteem for it went down as the film went on – the script is far too love with its own rhythms (although maybe thats the point) and the characters especially Jude Law are mostly loathsome or pitiful, sometimes switching statuses. It’s still four very beautiful actors all of whom are very good and directed by Mike Nichols (who has some glorious aerial shots of a strip club VIP lounge as if God is judging these wastrels), especially Clive Owen, who you can tell is a stage veteran and it’s a joy to watch a man know how to talk the talk and speak Marber’s words.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        Back in 2014 I made a project of seeing a new movie every day, and Closer was the very first film I watched because it was a friend’s favourite film (she seemed to identify with Portman’s character and especially the line “I love you. Why won’t you let me?”).

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Alice definitely felt the most familiar to me. She has by far the most purely devastating lines of dialogue.

      • I saw the theater dept perform Closer in college, and it really crackled on stage. Wasn’t subtle, but it worked.

    • Fresno Bob

      Just Bob’s Burgers, “The Deepening.” The best part of this episode is Teddy’s cryptic freak out over the mechanical shark. Not the best episode, but it still amuses me.

    • HypercubeVillain

      Been reading/watching 17776 and reached Chapter 18. I like how it keeps finding new ways to delve into its bleak implications; I found the end of this chapter surprisingly affecting. Juice’s jokes and commentary in general always catch me off-guard.

      (It’s good to know that the series is apparently concluding within the next few days, so it won’t grow into something I’ll easily lose track of.)

    • The Ploughman

      The final three episodes ignored The Lengend of Korra wherein a series pulls out of a tailspin and delivers what it’s always delivered best: an action-packed finale that stretches near feature length. It was enough to save the season, even if I feel the series was unable to payoff the promise left by the end of season 3. Jinorah is the character most obviously given the short end of the stick, which is one element of many keeping this season from achieving its titular goal of “Balance.” Ah, what might have been.

      • The fact that they weren’t allowed to show Korra and Asami kiss still makes me sore. That was how the writers intended it to end. And I loved seeing Zaheer again! My favorite of Korra’s villains.

        • The Ploughman

          Yes – Zaheer’s reappearance was one of the scattered moments that felt true to the series’ stated theme and I wish he’d been involved more. Showing that a “bad guy’s” motives can line up with a “good guy’s” motives is the kind of next-level thinkery I like to see in a show aimed at a younger audience. Also good on that front – the spirit world refusing to fight for Korra, pointing out that she just wanted to use them for their cause, same as the other side. In another show, they would have shown up at the end to save the day anyway. In Korra: Nope. We’ve had our say. We’ll come back when you stupid humans are finished punching each other.

          As for what they weren’t allowed to show…lemme put up a spoiler curtain here…So I definitely picked up on the kissy vibe in those final moments – but was I supposed to see that relationship developing to that point? I’d never read anything but Korra and Asami becoming close friends through everything. In fact, I would have thought their friendship would have come from being through much of the same stuff, but without having to sort through a past romance (like the way she never reconnected with Mako, for instance). The romance is always pretty chaste so it’s tough to read anyway, but I guess I’m kinda glad it wasn’t included. Not for the reasons Nickelodeon probably objected, but I don’t like the idea in a kids show that every close relationship will turn into a romantic one (Avatar had a bit of this problem, too).

          Spoilers down. Pearls unclutched.

          • I can tell you that Korrasami is HUGE in fandom. Partially wish fulfillment, as fandom does, but there’s subtle moments that imply that’s what the writers wanted all along. One instance is that they show those two standing in the same position as other romantic couples when those couples proclaim their love for each other (if I had the screencaps with me, I’d link to them now. Maybe later if I can find them). But I agree, I wish it had been built up more and made textual.

          • The Ploughman

            Well, in my top ten list of things I wanted from Season 4, that wouldn’t have been on there (#1: More Jinorah, #2: More Boomy, #3: More kid they picked up last season […] #10: Fewer Milo farts).

    • Miller

      Master of None, episodes four and five — the dating episode goes full Seinfeld and is all the better for it. The end with that horribly racist jar (ZOOM IN) especially, it’s hilarious and both Dev and his date are in a classic Seinfeldian terrible person argument. Some reviewers need to lighten up. Bobby Cannavale is awesome but the fifth episode is tainted by learning that those dancers are apparently real, what the living fuck.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        I’ve started using “potential boning situation” in casual conversation, if not on dates.

      • I loved that moment with the racist jar. I also loved the argument afterwards, where the woman said something to the effect of “and you still had sex with me??” and Dev just kind of shrugs.

        Those dancers are real? That is going to haunt my dreams.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          “Ok, I guess I can see how I don’t come off great in this situation” made me lose it.

          • I mean, hell, if I was Dev, I would have done the same thing.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Much like “The Other Man” there’s a fucked up relatable quality to it.

        • Miller

          She’s totally in the right in my book, and Dev’s response is totally Seinfeld — yeah, I’m not going to let my principles get in the way of a good fuck, or let my self-awareness get in the way of my self-righteousness.

    • lgauge

      A Ghost Story: Time heals the bereaved, but further kills the dead. A meditative and slow film, occasionally engaging in sudden dramatic moments that serve to unsettle and destabilize the otherwise tranquil melancholy of the rest. Though the clever use of sound and long takes, not to mention the great reveal shot of what sets the story down its path, had me intrigued early on, several elements had me concerned that this would be too much of an American indie in world/slow cinema clothing. Luckily, the strong anchoring in deeply felt emotion and great externalization of its emotional core packed in its storytelling make this a strong and notable effort. There’s also a great score that’s both diegetic and not in crucial moments. Mara and Affleck bring their usual game, but don’t do anything they haven’t done before (except apparently eat pie in Mara’s case).

      What keeps the film from being truly outstanding is a lack of a genuinely unique and/or deep exploration of its themes and ideas. While it benefits from its slow pace and meticulous construction of scenes (both visually and in terms of dialogue), there’s a sense that what it has to say could be said almost as well in a half hour short. There are echoes of various “special episodes” or one-off anthology episodes of 20-40 minutes sci-fi tv shows of the past, which have explored analogous (if not exactly similar) ideas in much shorter time spans. While these other realizations may lose a little bit from the lack of time that this film has (time being fairly important for this film in particular), this film doesn’t gain enough by being 90 minutes to justify its smaller aims. In fact, perhaps something more interesting could have been achieved in 2 hours or more. What remains is a very interesting film that can probably be quite moving for those it hits the hardest, but it lacks that extra special something to be a standout accomplishment.

      • The Ploughman

        I saw my first preview for this last weekend and I don’t know what I thought this movie was about, but it wasn’t what the preview suggested. It appears to be a movie about somebody in E.T.’s Halloween costume watching 21 Grams?

        • lgauge

          Kind of, but also not.

    • clytie

      Criminal Minds! I was otherwise occupied on Wednesday night when it aired last season, so I’m catching up. The pretty guy’s in trouble and I’m worried.

    • Rosy Fingers

      The War of the Roses – Just vicious. But also really fun. I had remembered this being a bit more equally weighted with the awfulness of the characters but Michael Douglas is just the worst guy in this. Kathleen Turner’s violent responses feel almost fully earned after putting up with that dipshit for so many years. I laughed a lot but also felt like I should apologise to my partner at the end of it, just for all my shit she’s had to put up with.

      Other than that, really well paced and shot. There is some very pretty framing going on in what’s a fairly enclosed space for most of the film. Danny Devito has some real directing chops.

  • DJ JD

    Discussion question for you fine folks: I was reading this article about a pretty well-known pen-and-paper game designer who made a pretty popular pen-and-paper cyberpunk game three decades ago, and he said this about that:

    “”Most people tend to look at it as ‘if it’s grim it’s Cyberpunk’,” he says. “I really believe that there should be something that’s kick out the jams, rocking it, raising hell – the rebellion part of it. That’s what we’ve been aiming for, to get that feeling. I want people to feel like it’s a dark future but there are points you can have fun in it.””

    It got me thinking about how far our general popular culture has wandered from the fun part of being a punk in a nihilistic fictional universe. I mean, we have a ton of dark settings aimed at teenagers and young adults – often high-visibility, sometimes even high-budget – but when is it ever *fun*? When does the surrounding desolation just give way to the youthful joys of raising hell and kicking out the jams? I can’t imagine a bigger antipunk than Katniss Everdeen. And, I mean, now we have a dark-and-serious Mighty Morphing Fricking Power Rangers, egad.)

    So, my question(s): What, if anything, has captured that sense of “having fun in a doomed world” recently, in any media? While I’m at it, what’s your personal favorite example? I actually would’ve listed Cyberpunk 2020 anyway, the pen-and-paper game in question, for exactly the reasons he said (“hair metal musician” is a viable character class) and I also think of Verhoeven’s sci-fi classics. The characters in the films aren’t having any punk-ish fun, but the tone of the movies themselves is deliriously in line with what I’m picturing here.

    • Drunk Napoleon

      This isn’t remotely helpful, but man, even Grand Theft Auto has gotten just sad and pathetic with age.

      • DJ JD

        They really have! I haven’t played GTA 5 yet, being a spiteful miser and all, but Vice City to 4, ugh. They get more and more “realistic”, and somehow don’t see that this gets them further and further away from flying a jetpack into an army base to steal a helicopter to blow up a boat. The Saints Row games picked up on it, but went too far in the other direction to really apply here–it’s hard to say the universe is so dismal when you’re literally the only person in it who matters.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          GTA V is kind of a meditation on aging, which is occasionally interesting – Trevor is basically the series saying “This is who you’ve been wanting to play as the whole time” – and often tedious, with Mike being the miserable get-off-my-lawn aging punk.

          I love Saints Row 2 the best out of that series, because it really leans into the idea that you are actually the one injecting wacky cartoon evil into a world that’s at least in the vicinity of reality; I think especially of the mission where your character gets the idea to steal radioactive material and getting the gang boss to inject it into his tattoos, which is far and above anything the other characters do in the game.

          • DJ JD

            When I heard Yahtzee from the Escapist specifically mention the SR2 characters’ in-game enthusiasm for the dumbest possible plans, I thought of the radioactive tattoo ink mission. It’s just such a moronic idea–but it doesn’t turn the universe into a huge joke in the process. I adore SR4 and Gat out of Hell in their own ways, but SR2 had a special balance going that was lost along the way.

            (Also, his idea of a sandbox where you play a Batman villain assembling your superweapon to take over the city is a really, really good idea. If Evil Genius 2 had happened, and had been an open-world sandbox game set in a big city, I’d have loved that.)

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Sounds like we both react pretty badly to Third, which I think actively ruins the Boss’ character. SR4 does what it was trying to do much better, softening the Boss and putting them in a wacky world, but I don’t love it like I do SR2.

          • DJ JD

            Pretty much. SR3 made me laugh when I played it (like the zombie virus outbreak) but then SR4 out-3’d 3 in ways that left it in no-man’s land for me.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            I actively hated parts of Third. The tiger mission for the wrestler played by Hulk Hogan was the nadir – after, again, tricking a guy into injecting radioactive fucking material into his tattoos, why would the Boss be worried about driving a tiger in a car? What would they have to prove?

            Also, there’s a mission where you stack prositutes in crates, which really didn’t sit well with the ridiculousness of the rest of the game.

      • I can’t stand GTA’s serious pretensions. It’s one of those games where the way the player interacts with the game and the way the in-game character acts are so, so different that it’s hard to take anything seriously.

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          Look, just let me have the mayhem of trying to jump the river in a stolen car on a homemade ramp while spraying uzi fire out of my window for absolutely no reason!

          • If you have a failing, Ruck, it’s that you’re always seeking perfection. If you have a failing.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          San Andreas and the pre-4 games that came in its wake work for me, because they take the mayhem for granted and build characters and plot on top of it rather than trying to undermine it.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Depressed that I can’t find a recent example. The Divergent movie I saw was “rebellious” but it was so miserableist and dour right down to the bland, cloudy Chicago visuals. I also personally love these kinds of movies so its too damn bad they don’t get made anymore – maybe post-1980’s our capacity for enjoying contradiction and not wallowing in sadness went way way down. You could also point out the upswing in savior narratives just as neoliberalism got worse and worse, and these films tend to be very sincere.

      • DJ JD

        “miserableist and dour” – you said the phrase I was looking for there. Fun nihilism can still be nihilism, but it isn’t miserableist at all.

        I think your point about the upswing in savior narratives is a highly relevant one, too. At this point, the Hero’s Journey is so inculcated into our brains that the beats barely need to be included in the movie for our brains to fill in the blanks–that Sorcerer’s Apprentice movie with Nicolas Cage was downright egregious on the point.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          It gets used over and over again now or we’re browbeated with the idea that “one man can make a difference” (or woman sometimes but that’s rare). That movie Pan tried to have some prophecy of the Pan and I can’t believe that wasn’t laughed out of the script.

          • DJ JD

            Another egregious one for me was that Alice in Wonderland remake (the first one; I didn’t see the sequel.) They had, what, three or four “you can make a difference” Hero Journeys going on there? Even the dog got one! Literally the dog she rides on for awhile!

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            That movie made me enraged in theaters. Fuck that movie so hard.

        • Babalugats

          At The Solute we call these bleakbusters.

    • HypercubeVillain
      • Fresno Bob

        I thought of the Doof, but he serves the enemy, and the good guys have more pressing things on their mind than having fun. Honestly, the Vuvalini are the group with the most smiles in Fury Road, and I wouldn’t describe them as a happy bunch.

      • DJ JD

        That does fall into that Verhoeven “the characters are serious but the film is having fun” realm for me, now that you mention it.

    • Fresno Bob

      Sounds like we have ripe territory for a story about a punk band that fights vampires in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

      • Green Room 2: Blood Red

        • Fresno Bob

          Green Room 2: Red Room

    • The Ploughman

      It doesn’t have the post-apocalypse setting, but it’s a pretty nihilist world: Cabin in the Woods. Probably the most chill end of the world scene in recent memory.

      • DJ JD

        Ooo, good one! The crowd-pleasing chaos that resulted from the sound of the elevator going ding is a great example.

    • DJ JD

      To clarify: I’m not worried about a post-apocalyptic setting. Cyberpunk 2020 happened more or less organically thanks to increasing corporate influence on the government and, umm, how Americans saw the Japanese in the ’80s. It’s more about being in a dark, dark world, and having characters who respond to the darkness by getting hammered drunk, mooning the world and then breaking stuff in public until they get arrested.

    • Babalugats

      Eastern cinema seems to be a bit better about this stuff than Hollywood. Snowpiercer has a bit of fun, and would have been a better movie had it gone further in that direction.

      How about Django Unchained? Not a post apocalyptic movie, but certainly a farcical and inhumanly cruel setting. And Django has a lot of fun murdering his way through it.

      • DJ JD

        I hadn’t thought of it before you mentioned Django, but Tarantino’s actually a really interesting standard of comparison for this phenomenon. Django’s a good example for sure. Basterds irritated me for not really caring about the history it was telling, but it doesn’t take too much squinting to see it as a “life in the Evil Empire” sort of movie, too–and by the measure of the bleakbuster (thankee kindly), it’s just fun as hell. Like, ten times as fun as that Divergent motherfucker.

        • The Ploughman

          I’m starting to find myself influenced by the “if it’s grim, it’s Cyberpunk” mentality you mentioned. It’s a similar process that puts subtle horror films into a separate “thriller” category, thereby limited what a horror film can be. I’m much less versed in cyberpunk than horror, but if we throw out an arbitrary grim and serious demeanor as a requirement, wouldn’t even Star Wars qualify? Rebels carousing around a technology-fueled future in defiance of a galaxy controlled by a dark empire? Would Episode III read easier as cyberpunk since nobody smiles in that one?

          • DJ JD

            It’s not really movie-related but Pondsmith’s interviews on the upcoming Cyberpunk game have been entertaining me a great deal. (He’s got another one up at Rock Paper Shotgun now, just as good; he points out that the interviewer needing to buy a new smartphone the instant his old one was unusable, and being able to recreate access to all of his information in an hour, is a totally cyberpunk thing to have happen.) He has so much to say about what the genre is and isn’t to him, what he wants to see in it and the like. It has given me a great deal more food for thought than I expected to get out of a teaser interview promoting a video game that won’t even come out this year.

          • Cyberpunk is much more terrestrial, and evil empires are more likely to be global conglomerates than governments. There can be spaceships and moon colonies, but it doesn’t overlap much with space opera. Think the Deus Ex or Shadowrun games, or Blade Runner or A Scanner Darkly. “High tech, low life”.

          • The Ploughman

            That makes sense. Good to know.

          • Rule of thumb: if it reads as the bastard child of science fiction and detective/crime stories, it’s probably cyberpunk.

          • DJ JD

            Also, the standard of living is often sharply lowered or worsened, for all the ubiquitous tech. In the pen-and-paper game in question, it’s much, much easier (and sometimes it’s actually cheaper) to buy bionic implants or a gun than it is to get fresh food. The far and away most common meal plan for punkers is a nondescript substance called “Kibble”.

          • There’s also that aspect of Cyber in Cyberpunk. It has to have a focus on computers and cyber technology. Whether that’s Hackers or body modding with ports or cables or being transplanted on the internet. Futurama had several cyberpunky episodes, especially the one where they go on the internet and Fry illegally downloads Lucy Liu. To a point, Tron: Legacy was a cyberpunk film about kicking out the jams in a doomed world, but some might argue it lacks the noir scuzziness that many feel is integral to the genre.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            The Shadowrun universe was always one of my favorites, although I’ve only played a couple of the games, and never the original pen-and-paper.

      • Son of Griff

        I’d also include Wong Kar Wai’s CHUNKING EXPRESS and FALLEN ANGELS in this category. It’s not the future, but a vaguely dystopian present.

    • That’s not an emotion exclusive to Cyberpunk. There’s a fair swath of zombie movies where the whole point is rebelling in a doomed world. Night of the Comet was all about having fun in a doomed world, complete with a shopping montage. And there’s nothing remotely cyberpunk about it. There’s also Zombieland, which is similarly about having fun in a doomed world. I’d dare say that much of the subtext of the zombie genre is about rebelling against the mindless norm, making it a natural breeding ground for punk behavioral patterns in the survivors.

      I agree with babalugets that eastern cinema is better at it, what with the gonzo stuff like Meatball Machine Kodoku and much of the anime/manga from Akira to Battle Royale, and especially Ghost in the Shell.

      Guardians of the Galaxy had all the punk trimmings of being a rebel in a doomed world, but ruined it by reinforcing government control in the climax. The Signal also had the beginnings of a cyberpunk rebellion movie but had absolutely no follow through. Unfortunately, American mainstream cinema has been having an overall fascistic moment for the past decade (I blame 9/11) where we’re ultimately supposed to trust in government even if they fuck up on occasion.

      • DJ JD

        Zombieland! Another great example.

        I wasn’t trying to just talk about cyberpunk, I was just saying that his critique of what people were calling cyberpunk got me thinking about how completely the bleakbuster has won over the nihilistic film setting in general. His version of cyberpunk includes kicking out the jams; I wanted to hear what else people had on the point (and I have not been disappointed; thank you for the thoughtful post.)

        • Oooo, Dollhouse got a bit grim by the end but there’s something to be said about that having a good cyberpunk foundation and being loads of fun at times. Topher and his Summer Glau counterpart would have been a great character in a cyberpunk world. And, the rebels in the two epithets (especially Scut Farkus’ guy) could have easily been a cyberpunk classic in an expanded universe version of that story.

          • DJ JD

            Another great example. Whedon definitely gets how to have some fun in the darkness.

    • Rosy Fingers

      Not cyber but along the punk vein: my favourite nihilist the-world-is-fucked-so-you-might-as-well-enjoy-it films include Hedwig & the Angry Inch and Dogs in Space. In both those films the milieu is essentially hopeless (not post-apocalyptic, just modern day hopeless) but the experience of spending time with the characters is so enjoyable. I come out of those films glad for having been there.

    • Drunk Napoleon

      Oh man, this should have occurred to me sooner: Rick And Morty, which Conor once accurately summed up with “If you’re complicit in an evil system, you might as well have fun with it”.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Rick and Morty fans are apparently annoying, but damn it “Nothing matters, we all die eventually, come watch TV” is genius.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, we’re all going to die, come watch TV.”

          I was born for even stupider reasons than Summer; the only reason I wasn’t moved by that line was because I’ve taken that concept for granted a very long time.

    • Defense Against The Dark Arts

      There’s a segment in a Halloween episode of The Simpsons called “The Homega Man”. France nukes Springfield because of Mayor Quimby’s infamous “frogs legs joke”. Anyway, Homer thinks he’s the last person alive on earth and he takes the opportunity to see movies for free and steal Ferraris. I’m pretty sure that’s how I would be if I survived the Apocalypse.

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  • So what do y’all think about the Emmy nominations?

    • I’ve seen an embarrassingly few number of these, but even among the ones I have seen, these are some weird-ass picks. Jonathan Banks over Michael Mando in Better Call Saul? TWO Silicon Valley nominations for directing, but only one for writing?

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        I’d pick Michael McKean over either.

        Veep got an absurdly high number of nominations for what a downturn this season was.

    • 1. Bill Maher for best variety talk show? Really?

      2. I’m rooting for Handmaid’s Tale and Atlanta all the way.

      3. Black Mirror has a nomination! I suspect it’ll lose to Henrietta Lacks.

      4. I fully expect Baldwin to win for playing Trump.

      5. YouTube has a nom for “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked”? Is this there first?

      • This is indicative of how well-informed I am in general, but I had no idea there was a Henrietta Lacks thing.

        I kind of want Tituss to win, but yeah. You’re probably right about Baldwin.

      • Fresno Bob

        Apparently, I watch no TV.

        • The Ploughman

          In some circles that would be a brag.

          • Fresno Bob

            Oh Christ, you’re right! I totally didn’t mean it that way. It’s weird when I look at this list and see no re-runs of 30 Rock, Buffy, or Twin Peaks, and realize that I have completely crawled up my own arse.

          • The Ploughman

            I don’t see it that way in this circle! I refer to you the handy xkcd chart below, and point out that a few years have gone by since its creation:

            https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/i_dont_own_a_tv.png

          • Fresno Bob

            The arrow would surely be buried below the neutral line by now. I am, however, insufferably smug about not owning a cell phone (because it masks the fact that I can’t afford one, and would actually love to have a high quality camera/tricorder in my pocket).