• DJ JD

    I hadn’t thought to frame it this way, but a clever, intricate thinkity-thinky sci-fi piece about Big Picture questions like ethics and man’s obligation to his fellow man seems like an odd direction for someone who doesn’t storyboard to try to go. My favorite of those type of movies tend to be extremely tightly-run machines, every cog exactly in its place and clicking in time with one another. They don’t tend to have a ton of room for moments to arise organically that the camera can capture. This sounds much worse than the trailer suggested.

    Also, Omaha.

    • The Ploughman

      The worst thing that can happen to a high concept sci-fi film is for the high concept element to become a 1-to-1 replacement for its mirror in the real world (I call it About Time Syndrome, after the movie where time eventually just literally becomes money). In this case it’s the marginalized populations whose situation is exactly the same in the small world as the large one. It might be an accurate take on the idea, but it’s not an interesting one. Plus it doesn’t connect to the story we’ve been investing in for the previous forty minutes.

      Also,
      https://media.giphy.com/media/14626PNOLBHwPe/giphy.gif

      • ZoeZ

        Science fiction–and fantasy, for that matter–pretty much always falls apart when it goes for metaphorical resonance over the natural resonance of the story itself. I’m all for metaphorical resonance, but it has to fit, and as soon as you start twisting the world you’ve made and the characters in it to make everything better correlate with Your Point, you lose the feeling of the story being its own world.

        To be fair, there’s probably a push to do it nonetheless, because it makes for both a simplicity that gives you a catchier, more easily-pushed elevator pitch for the masses–“Time is literally money!”–and because the sense of “this thing that pretends to be talking about this thing is actually talking about this other thing” is, while lazy, just enough of a gesture towards profundity to get it a veneer of critical approval to go along with the popular appeal. I think that last bit, at least, is changing; we’ve had too much good genre filmmaking over the years for most critics to keep up the “transcends its genre” thing, especially when it’s “transcends its genre by being aware that symbolism exists.”

  • The Voice of A Gnu Generation

    It sounds as if Payne wanted to make a movie about the dangers of climate change but he had to use a sci-fi story about a shrink ray to get it funded. I want to compliment your restraint in not peppering this whole review with big/small puns. You’re a bigger man than I am. Also, little known fact about Omaha: I’ve never been there.

    • The Ploughman

      I lost the restraint when it came to title it. And that’s actually the first fact listed in the AAA guide.

      • The Voice of A Gnu Generation

        Speaking of Nebraska, what did you think of Payne’s film of the same name? I read criticism (possibly just from this one person) that it looked down on the people of your home state. Did you get that vibe?

        • The Narrator

          I admittedly live in Illinois and not Nebraska, but Nebraska rang true enough for me (the line about Will Forte driving a “Jap car” is straight from my grandma), and apparently for several members of my family (including the aforementioned maternal grandmother and grandfather), who absolutely love it.

        • The Ploughman

          Short answer: No. There’s a difference between lampooning and looking down on, and most of the criticism I’ve heard claiming the latter comes from outside the state.

          It helps that Payne has his kept his Midwest credentials current. And not just by coming back for a parade now and then – he’s consistently used Nebraska as a setting in his movies and kept it as a specific place and he’s a founding board member of Film Streams, a non-profit independent theater in Omaha (trivia: Omaha has more movie screens per capita than any city in its category or larger). This doesn’t grant him immunity from being condescending, but it suggests he’s not only looking backward at his hometown. He’s never lionized Nebraskans but the ways he lampoons their foibles are specific enough to be recognizable and funny to Nebraskans. Every house interior in an Alex Payne film looks like the houses I saw as a kid, and none are directly adjacent to a cornfield (the nearest cornfield was three whole blocks away from my early childhood home). My mother, who grew up in a small town near the one in Nebraska, can’t stand to watch the film because it’s too accurate, and reminds her of people she was happy to have moved away from. I was a little annoyed at the dimwitted brother characters for a while, but I think about them every time I’m hanging out with my father-in-law’s stepsons.

          In the end, to suggest that Nebraskans won’t recognize themselves in the competent and kind characters played by Will Forte and June Squibb, or that ribbing Midwesterners about their fondness for Appleby’s is more than their gentle souls can take (when Los Angeleans have been depicted as literally eating each other) – now that’s condescending.

          (Clearly I’ve found a lot to say on this topic. I was thinking when I wrote up the article that I might need to do something on Payne’s Omahas, if for no other reason than it would give me an excuse to rewatch his first three films).

          • Delmars Whiskers

            I’m from Iowa, which is almost Nebraska, and I think Payne’s films are mostly dead on. My favorite example of clueless Hollywood types not getting the Midwest would have to be The Bridges Of Madison County. It’s a movie with admirable qualities, but seriously–nobody is going to have a fucking fireplace going in an Iowa summer, the State Fair comes BEFORE the leaves start changing colors, and what part of the state has these rural jazz clubs?

  • Babalugats

    So does Matt Damon fight a spider in this movie or not?

    • The Ploughman

      Yes. He “fights” the “spider” of economic disparity.

      Hey, there’s a solution in there. The Earth’s population has avoided catastrophic climate change by downsizing and everybody lives in luxury in a post-scarcity society. But a portion of the population is bearing the brunt of spider and rodent attacks. Now the people who a year ago were barely scraping by in the big world are reluctant to help out building a defense system because it would mean giving up their BMWs (or, the big population could exterminate the threat but won’t because screw those tiny rich cowards). There. Environmental message wedded to central SF concept, plus giant spider fights. Everybody wins. Except Payne, who now has to direct giant spider fights.

  • Once again, a reminder that SF is not that easy to make, and that too often people will no ideal how it works think it’s easy.

  • Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      LOST, Season Four, Episode Nine, “The Shape Of Things To Come”
      “Australia’s the key to the whole game.”

      “He changed the rules.”

      One funny side effect of the science fiction aspect of the series is us and the characters seeing consequence before action, due to time dilation. And one funny side effect of watching a show for the first time in an actual decade is realising how dumb I was at seventeen – apparently picking up basic cause-and-effect wasn’t my greatest skill, because the layout of Ben and Widmore’s war is much clearer to me now, the back-and-forth of it, and I can see Ben’s schemes are actually pretty simple.

      Team Locke dissolves in this episode. Locke’s philosophy means he can’t hold onto a community very long, and he seems to have accepted that by this point.

      At this stage, we’re in a reordered drama, as cause and effect slowly come together. Ben remarks that Widmore ‘changed the rules’, which is really a summary of how Lost’s approach to drama works; the rules keep changing and the world keeps expanding. We started this season with Boat People vs Island People: Dawn Of Justice, but it evolved into Ben vs Widmore. I don’t know what to make of that.

      It’s incredible to me just how much work Lily and Fox put into the shitty Kate/Jack romance.

      Ownage: “Oh, so you do speak English?”

      A truly absurd number of redshirts fail to recognise they’re being assaulted.

      “I’m not coming out of this house. So if you want to kill her, go ahead and do i – ”

      “I need you to take a message to Mr Widmore.”
      “And what message is that?”

      Ben sets Smokey on Keamy’s team and it owns beyond belief. The special effects team play it like Smokey is a fucking train tornado thing.

      My Writing + The Shield, inevitably
      I was tooling about with plotting in general, trying to figure out a good master way to create an interesting premise with a lot of potential, and I settled on the idea of “protagonist does x to do y, with the risk of z happening” and realised that TL has become fairly easy to write (especially now that I’ve got the characters down) because I can almost always generate new story with “the Away Team fight killbots” – or to put it through my formula, “the Away Team does x to fight killbots with the risk of z happening”. Literature is generally more concerned with the problem of generating story than drama, but The Shield has an equivalent too – “Dutch catches serial killers by investigating crime scenes and talking to witnesses”, with the type of crime scenes, killers, and witnesses always changing. What I take from this is that unity is less about the audience and more about the writer, closing off just enough options to provide structure for creativity.

    • ZoeZ

      Finished Jessica Jones. The ending can’t help but feel a little abrupt–Jessica has barely gotten away from the devastation and troubled triumph of the season’s arc before we get an immediate THERE WILL BE A SEASON TWO montage, and also, what happened to Pam?–but overall, this was very good, full of excellent performances and a surprising darkness. It could have achieved greatness except for the one or two flaws that are more than cosmetic, which I’m thinking are as follows:

      The show is awesome at combining grittiness and heroism, and looking at how one achieves that heroism in a slipshod and thoroughly imperfect world (minus Claire Temple showing up to deliver a speech on it all, which is bad), and I like the realistic wrinkles: Luke might be able to forgive Jessica for killing his wife while under Kilgrave’s control, but he can’t forgive her yet for keeping that a secret from him, while Jessica has to forgive Hogarth, and believe Hogarth wants forgiveness, because she has practical need of her. But, with the exception of the great Luke/Jessica argument and Hope’s sacrifice of herself, the season doesn’t look enough at the costs of the choices Jessica makes. There’s a lot of good material in the fact that Jessica deliberately puts off killing Kilgrave because she wants to prove his powers, save Hope from imprisonment, and therefore redeem herself, and that that leads to many, many deaths, including Hope’s, but the only person who voices this is Simpson, the constant advocate for “get Kilgrave unconscious and then kill him,” and his descent into drug-crazed ruthlessness makes it seem like his pragmatism is fundamentally less noble than Jessica’s quixotic attempt, and it would have been good to have that be less simple. It’s a little bit of a faux-darkness, then, and that kind of grates: the show doesn’t quite take it to the point where Jessica either has to damn an innocent girl to prison and live with that or directly face the devastation she caused by not doing that. So it hits a point where she’s hard-drinking and a little bit of an asshole, but she doesn’t do much to genuinely risk the audience’s affection for her, and you can see the strings being pulled. Honestly, even taking the supersoldier drugs out of Simpson’s plot would go a long way toward fixing the problem.

      But if it kind of falls down as pure drama, it does a great job as well-characterized ensemble and as a horror, with quite a lot of genuine terror and revulsion, and the epic, iconic scope of it–that “I love you” bit in the finale was really something, as was Luke Cage punching his fists through the wall instead of going through the door–makes up for a lot, especially when aided by the strong, empathetic performances.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Jessica Jones has some bad plotting (also one fall down terrible character who I despise, you know the one) but the central metaphor, like all good horror and sci-fi, stands up really well. I suspect the reason JJ works better than Daredevil or Luke Cage is that it has a simple, explicit message and finds smart ways to hammer that home, like how Killgrave himself was coerced/experimented on, where Cage in particular doesn’t know what its trying to communicate.

    • Jake Gittes

      The Greatest Showman, in which I found resistance to be mostly futile, at least while I was watching it. No problem with the movie’s decision to appropriate Barnum’s reported real-life character and story for a movie that’s all about relentlessly pushing progressive values, especially since you can hardly accuse it of trying to be an accurate biography, and it rarely crosses the line into obnoxious. If you accept the rules it’s playing by, the remaining weak points are the incoherent treatment of Jenny Lind (who, unlike Barnum, is pointlessly changed to be a worse person than she was irl, and as a character really doesn’t serve the narrative in any way apart from very superficially complicating it) and the fact that the pretty, noble white people still get more of the movie’s actual attention than the “freaks” do. But Jackman is predictably perfect, the movie’s messaging is genuinely unapologetic, and perhaps most importantly it’s got real technical bravado, using its song-and-dance numbers to express its spirit and the characters’ defining traits and relationships via meticulously choreographed movement of bodies and camera, assisted by editing that’s dynamic without being incomprehensible. In the end it really did lift my spirits so mission accomplished.

      • The Voice of A Gnu Generation

        I first read that as The Greatest Snowman and it got me thinking, who is the greatest Snowman?

        Obviously Frosty is on the list, he’s stood the test of time and he has an eponymous song that’s become a perennial favorite.

        Then there’s the reincarnated, Snowman father voiced by Michael Keaton from Jack Frost, but he turned out to be more scary looking than heartwarming. On the plus side he is a musician.

        There’s the killer Snowman from the direct to video Christmas-themed horror movie also called Jack Frost. But I hesitate to call him the greatest because he’s a murderer. Although, I will call him the greatest killer Snowman.

        Finally there’s the human serial killer from the recently released The Snowman starring Michael Fassbender as Harry Hole. I’m going to disqualify him because he’s not actually made of snow.

        So I guess to answer my own question, it’s Frosty for the win.

        • What about The Snowman from the classic British animation, The Snowman? He can fly for some reason!

          • The Ploughman

            vomas has the right of it. Olaf can be third.

          • The Voice of A Gnu Generation

            I forgot Olaf. But in my defense I’ve never seen Frozen. Also there’s The Falcon and The Snowman, but again, not a real snowman.

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹
        • Jake Gittes

          No discussion of killer Snowmen is complete without this, even if we’re only talking about one scene

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFT8bc_GYGI

          • The Voice of A Gnu Generation

            That (almost) makes me want to find out what crazy shit happened 5 years earlier.

          • Jake Gittes
          • The Voice of A Gnu Generation

            This is a good point: “While the ending is original, it is completely absurd. Like I said, how did he get into a snowman? Did he build it? If so Alex is extremely talented or had a helper. Also, how long did he have to stay in that snowman and wait for her to put an eye on it? How did he survive?”

    • The Wire, episodes 2 and 3 – I’d forgotten quite how useless most of the team are at the very start. I remembered Prez being frustratingly dumb but at this point basically everyone apart from Greggs is dead weight (although Freamon sparks into life in the second of these episodes). Amusingly Bubbles has achieved more than any of the police so far with his ingenious hat-based revenge scheme. D’Angelo is probably the most interesting character in these early episodes though, and that chessboard scene is an all-time great.

      • The Ploughman

        In the moment I found the chessboard scene too obvious. But when it comes back much later, it’s worth it.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Also very eerie in how every character is dead by the end of the series.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            It’s been a while, but is it just Bodie, D’Angelo, and Wallace? I couldn’t remember if Poot was in the scene, but he does survive.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Nah I don’t think Poot’s there.

    • lgauge

      The Searchers: Most of all a deeply moving film.

      It’s a bit boring to find myself in agreement with the Sight and Sound poll I suppose, but out of the Ford Westerns I’ve seen up to this point I can’t help but find this to be his best. If Stagecoach is his most purely thrilling genre creation and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and perhaps Fort Apache, the clearest distillations of his post-war thematic/political struggles with the West as birth place of American myth and the ambiguous regret at the approach of a multi-faceted modernity, then this is where he finds a balance between these two impulses. Though the balance skews more towards the unease and regret of the latter films, there is also a reinvigoration of certain genre thrills and a certain flair for melodrama (that has certainly always been there, but here grows to envelop aspects of the film even outside the almost Sirkian moments of despairing love). Projected onto perhaps Ford’s grandest canvas, here given the most vivid Technicolor expression, The Searchers emerges as a great work of synthesis. Its many tensions — first and foremost the ambiguity of its characters and the contrast between its thorny anti-hero narrative (somewhere on the continuity between 40s noir and 70s New American Cinema) and the melodrama and painterly grandiosity — giving rise to what strikes me as Ford’s most considered and powerful dialectic of the American West. Best of all, the deeply felt regret soaking every frame of the film gives it a profound sadness that even in understated moments is almost too much to bear. All adding up to a film of considerable raw emotional power.

      This is also one of those films where its imperfections only make it the kind of unruly and chaotic creation one wants to wrestle with. For example, the way the film sags just a little bit around the middle. It is certainly a flaw, but somehow a lovable one. Or, more interestingly and among the things that will puzzle and upset a modern audience, the casting of Scar. In my experience, which is to say to my best knowledge, Ford seems to (whatever his motivation) have mostly cast Native Americans in these roles in his films (including every other such role in this film). So I can only speculate that (whether by Ford’s own choice or a demand from the studio/producer) in this case it was felt that it was too big a role not to cast someone white (as much distaste as that sentence even gives me to write). And while I don’t think there’s any reason to justify this decision, given the reality of it there emerges a subtext where in their “ultimate enemy” among the natives, the white men essentially face off against themselves. Unlike in Fort Apache for example, in this film we are never given any reason why the Comanche attack. Which can certainly give the ahistorical impression that no good reason exists. Yet as historically educated viewers, who do not need the film to present us with the centuries of context that might motivate this hostility, we know all too well why this situation exists.

      On a similar note, we are never really given a chance as an audience to really digest, consider and interrogate the behavior of the ostensible hero of the story, Martin. Whereas the film makes clear, and we are given plenty of time to ponder, the many distasteful aspects of Wayne’s character. Yet Martin has at least one moment that is as despicable as they come, when he literally kicks his “wife” away from him. It’s a very shocking moment, almost played for laughs yet one that is as thorny as they come. But the film never addresses this. While this bothered me a bit at the time, I wonder now if it isn’t in some sense a strength of the film. A typical approach might have been to address this head on, have him apologize and/or make some gesture later meant to absolve him in our eyes. But we’re never given such relief. We are left with this concerning black mark on his white heroic canvas. We don’t get any uncomplicated heroes. Maybe we don’t get any heroes at all. Despite a clear narrative resolution of the plot, we are left with a strong emotional ambiguity, an unshakable sense that nothing is really finished or made better. Underlined with elegant ease by the film’s most regretful final shot.

      Like for instance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Leone’s work, it seems almost dishonest to call this the best Western (no pun intended), since so much of its richness comes in conversation with the genre itself and can therefore not exist on its own. If Stagecoach was one of the only Westerns ever made, it would still be a masterpiece. Not so with this film and the others mentioned. However, for those of us lucky enough to experience and absorb the necessary context, there’s nothing quite like the expansive themes of this film’s text and the regretful sorrow of its images.

      • The Ploughman

        That final shot does so much for the film as a whole and Wayne’s character in specific. All the ambition, all the cruelty, all the meanness – it brought the family back together, but there’s no place for him in it. Many will enjoy the comforts brought by the ones who pushed the frontier while they will stay in the wilderness for their sins.

        • lgauge

          In retrospect I found the regret to be there already in the (almost as iconic) opening shot. Not just from how the two shots are in conversation with it each other, but there’s something a little reluctant about how Ford crafts the opening. It’s such a beautiful world we’re entering, but something about it isn’t right.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        You hit the nail on the head with how ahead of his time Ethan as an anti-hero seems to be. This is an angry, cruel man from a 1975 Western inhabiting a Fordian landscape and I’ve always loved the cognitive dissonance, the sense that this is closer to the truth for us but not the Film Truth, the unreality of the Western (whereas The Man With No Name thoroughly belongs in that sweaty, dirty world).

        • lgauge

          To be fair I’m not as into those 70s films as many others, but I think this is more or less my ideal version of the anti-hero story. The character is already thorny and unpleasant, so putting him in a thorny and unpleasant world (as is often the case in those 70s films and also in a lot of modern prestige television) seems redundant. I also really love the melodramatic trappings and the Technicolor grandiosity, so getting all of these elements on their own and then having them play off each other as well as they do strikes me as the best of both worlds really.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Its funny because I grew up on anti-Westerns for the most part (except for High Noon which I thought was tedious) so my main experience with the Western as a kid was the films that challenged and subverted their premise.

          • lgauge

            That’s somewhat true in my case as well, at least with the Leone films. I’m very curious to see how those play after (in a while more) catching up with all the classics.

          • Son of Griff

            To get people into Westerns, I often recommend watching them backwards in time. For a movie like THE SEARCHERS, describing it in contemporary terms shocks one when confronting some of the more old fashioned elements.

      • I want to like The Searchers more than I do. The parts that work well are phenomenal, but the slapstick subplot bores me senseless. Trim that, make it leaner and meaner, and I’d adore it.

      • Son of Griff

        I consider this as part of Ford’s “trilogy of forgetting”, a series of movies about the passing of western communities with the arrival of a modern age. THE SEARCHERS is the most complex entry, for unlike FORT APACHE and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE, where the nation explicitly manifests itself as a transformative force upon the wilderness, the focus is on how the masculine romance of captivity “liberation” distracts from the feminine fabric of community building. The scene you refer to with Look reveals this: Martin doesn’t realize he enters a marriage contract, and treats his spouse abusively as she tries to perform her marital duties. Having left her people and having no place to go, she leaves a sign pointing in Scar’s direction, a final act of devotion. When Martin finds her body after a cavalry raid on a renegade camp, he expresses uncertainty of her motivations. Despite the consistency of her actions, he doesn’t “get” her and cannot understand her motives. There is a constant series of ellipses in this film that point to the forgotten role of feminine mediation in a world of violence and conflict. You really have to pick of on visual and gestural shorthand to penetrate the mysteries of this film. I really like your take on this.

        I’d almost make this a quartet with SERGEANT RUTLEDGE, but the take on the unreliability of memory is addressed in a more liberal manner, where the need to abandon myths is affirmed. Need to watch that one again soon.

    • The Ploughman

      Ed Wood – I liked this film the first time I saw it years ago and I’m delighted to find that I love it now. I will say that this is Burton’s best film, full stop. And yes, I’m including Pee Wee, Beetlejuice, Aperaham Lincoln, everything. The film is keenly aware of the sadness and failure at the core of its story, yet makes the decision to be happy all the way through. I love now the shot near the end when Wood and Kathy have left the top down on their convertible and it fills with rain. Their poor planning have, to anybody else, made a ruin of something. But they laugh in delight at the sight of water cascade out the doors and drive off. I don’t kid myself that Ed Wood was anything like this in real life – and if he was, it was likely a relatively brief part of his life – but I’m not sure he’d write his own story any differently.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Kathy Wood herself said Ed was just like that so I suspect the exuberance was always there even if the real story was much darker and sadder. Great movie though!

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        I still try to find reasons in conversation to use “Worst movie you ever saw? Well, I promise the next one will be even better!”

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          “Hello? Hello?” Maybe the funniest moment in the movie besides of course “Mehico…was…a nightmare.”

          • The Ploughman

            The whole scene with the rubber octopus is gold. “Fuck you! YOU come out here!”

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Seriously, how many actors on B-Movie sets have said a version of that line?

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Creep 2 – This feels like the Evil Dead 2 of the series so far, more of a comedy (though there’s some darkness at the end) compared to Creep’s uneasy mix of comedy/horror. Creep 2 does a great job in particular giving Josef/Aaron a real match, a vlogger, Sarah, who will not be as thrown as Brice was in the original by Aaron’s fuckery and won’t give him the control he clearly needs over the material. In particular I think the Creep series is a dark take on Stranger Danger and soft boy sociopathy (Mark Duplass is every super intimate way too quick hipster dude I’ve ever met) but also how far Americans will go to be polite and civilised when the situation requires the opposite. In this case it’s: can we be swayed by someone carrying all the warning signs?

      Rome Episode 4. I’m not gonna talk about all the baby drama anymore because I just couldn’t give a fuck, though Indira Varma brings it, but the rest of the show is still quite strong. This episode is semi-focused on Caesar but also the wave of change he brings to Rome, from the legions marching in ominous formation to martial law to Brutus’ mother (whose name I can’t spell) desperate for his touch. I’m not entirely sure what the real Caesar was like, though I know he like the series character was a merciful man, angular and attractive, but Ciarin Hinds plays him perfectly as regal. Caesar is utterly at ease with himself, savvy, silver-tongued, a presence. He is born to rule and no one is going to get in his way or mess up this image – except his epilepsy, the one thing he can’t control. Again no idea what Caesar was like but it makes psychological sense for him to be so *on* all the time considering what could occur at any second.

      Also uh Frasier was on! Jesus Kelsey Grammar fucking up “Buttons and Bows” is hilarious.

      • The Voice of A Gnu Generation

        I’ll second everything you said about Creep 2 and add Duplass Dangle.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Oh right him hanging dong? I don’t have much else to say except…good for him.

          • The Voice of A Gnu Generation

            That scene was interesting (aside from the nudity) because of the way it was shot. When he gets naked she shows his whole body, but when the camera is turned and she starts to disrobe he doesn’t care about her body and instead zooms into her face. His whole act is getting some kind of reaction out of people and he wanted to see it up close.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Right, and it also shows how deeply uncomfortable he is with her taking any control or being confrontational about what he’s doing. It’s a nice bit of plotting.

    • DJ JD

      Sicario – I was not as impressed with this as I expected to be. It hit that tone of precarious dread very effectively and never stopped once it started, but a couple of character choices just felt out-of-place–if not actively daft. Emily Blunt is probably the single best actress available for a role like this, which makes it easier to overlook the fact that she’s playing a stupid, stupid, stupid tactical FBI genius. The moment she walked into a briefing, had nothing explained to her and had Delta Force on hand, it seemed like I knew more about her mission than she did–and I work in neither law enforcement nor the military. It’s not super easy to get Delta Force support for things, lady. There’s only a couple ways that happens. Unfortunately, that flaw really threw me out of the movie, because she kept making choices that we in the audience were supposed to intuitively understand, if not immediately empathize with, and I kept waiting for her to get killed for being dangerously unaware of her situation.

      I enjoyed it well enough, but was not thunderstruck like the critics of the day seemed to be.

      • lgauge

        I had some of the same issues with Blunt’s character. I found her “bravery” in the face of these obviously extremely dangerous men who could basically kill her at any time with impunity to be so beyond recklessly stupid that her emotional journey was impossible to empathize with. I had some other issues too (more related to Villeneuve’s direction), but that was probably the biggest issue pulling the film down a few levels for me.

        • DJ JD

          Both sides of it! On the one hand, she was so actively clueless it’s like she was trying to wreck something, but then on the other hand if she’s really that committed to Rule of Law and other Title Case concepts, you’d think she’d just walk away instead of “needing to see this through”…you know, by ignoring life-saving advice and risking her neck in pointless ways constantly.

      • I was similarly disappointed with this one, and to some extent I’ve had similar issues with each of the other Villeneuve films that I’ve seen since (although I’ve enjoyed each of the others a little more). He’s obviously a talented director but he has an odd habit of making just a couple of weird choices in each movie that I find extremely offputting.

        • pico

          So far, I haven’t come out of a Villeneuve film feeling like he understood his own premises well enough to exploit them. The weird choices, to me, seem like a misjudgment about what is and isn’t interesting/productive about the material he’s chosen. (I’ve only seen his three most recent, though.)

      • This is pretty close to my take (and it’s also pretty close to your essay today): Blunt is a great, smart actress who winds up playing another cliche, Woman Who Just Doesn’t Get This World.

        • DJ JD

          I’m delighted you reminded me of that, because I meant to come back to it once I’d seen one of ’em. I posted this over there, too, but you saw through her better than I did. The movie put enough window dressing on her (talking to her partner, talking to her boss, looking in the mirror, full-on Lifetime Movie sequence) that I took her more as a poorly-written, contradictory character than a placeholder. But now that I read that, I can’t unsee it.

          • Son of Griff

            I think we see this problem in ARRIVAL as well (my what-I-watched last night pick). The characters are there merely to reveal something about a mysterious conundrum, but their own impulses that put them in those position to get to the big whats-it is unexplored. He uses negative space and music to generate mood but it doesn’t ultimately a hook engrossing enough to disguise the artiface.

          • The Narrator

            That’s why Enemy is one of my favorites of his, because it’s the one where he fully and openly ditches any connection to recognizable humanity.

          • Son of Griff

            Always keep missing miss that one. Villanueve always holds my attention but his movies never hold up afterwards.

          • Jake Gittes

            Enemy is my favorite of his in a walk.

          • The Ploughman

            And that’s the thing I didn’t like about it. Characters who don’t act like people… what’s left?

          • The Narrator

            Duh, giant spiders and disturbingly anonymous Toronto architecture.

          • The Ploughman

            Everybody’s all about giant spiders today.

          • The Narrator

            -Jon Peters

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            This and Blade Runner 2049 are my favorites because they veer from traditional views of human beings (and humanism) towards an alienated hyper-stylization.

      • Son of Griff

        In reference to a thread yesterday, Bigelow could get away with these flaws, because her manner of shooting and editing gets to the addictive psychology of violence that transcends logic and smarts. Even if given a better script in terms of “smartness”, her approach would still focus on the rush of adrenaline inherent in the conflict. Not to bright interlocuters can work, but they must have motivation.

        • Yes to all of this. Put another way, Bigelow would have Blunt owning shit. Imagine what the final Blunt/del Toro scene would have been like with Bigelow in charge–there would have been some real fear in him that Blunt might not sign, or that she might get the gun and kill him. You don’t pull that helpless-female plot-device shit with her in charge. Bigelow might also go for ZMF’s proposed and far better ending: Blunt gets into it and joins up. (Worked in The Hurt Locker, too.)

    • MiB animated series, third episode of season four – The final season of the show is off to a rough start as two of the first three are centered on the Worms. As the show needed a cast beyond J, K, L and Zed, they use the Worms far more than the movie would otherwise justify. Which is okay some of the time. But these one note characters – they drink coffee! – are kind of dull after a while. And I suspect that I am going to find them ever more dull if the rest of the season uses them more than L or Zed.

    • clytie

      The latest episode of The Goldbergs. Beverly episodes are always fun, but the Erica subplot was trying to hard to create unnecessary conflict.

      Also, Law & Order: SVU Also filled with unnecessary conflict. The entire story arc with Brooke Shields was pointless. I think they’re trying to get Mariska Hargitay another Emmy by giving her these plotlines that focus on her character, which is funny because the episode she won a well-deserved Emmy for (2005’s classic “911”) was a pretty straightforward episode that was victim-focused.

      Then I watched the newest Criminal Minds. Reid was MIA and they episode was kinda lame overall.

    • mr_apollo

      The Target Shoots First, a documentary by Chris Wilcha about working in the marketing department of the Columbia House mail order record club. While much of its time has passed (record clubs? physical media?), its pre-Office depiction of corporate culture is still accurate and there’s nothing dated to Wilcha’s ambivalence about how “alternative” or “indie” culture is easily co-opted into becoming another way to sell people things.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        My dad subscribed to one of those record club’s and it fucked him up financially apparently – nevertheless I had a pretty great time with the Best of 60’s & 70’s comps (I strongly associate “Sunshine Superman” with being 9 or 10 years old.)

        • mr_apollo

          Really? I don’t recall the record clubs being quite so hard-assed about collections, certainly not compared to debt agencies of today. I guess he didn’t know the “I’m moving overseas” trick, which is how a couple of friends got out of meeting their buy-eight-records-over-the-next-three-years obligation.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Yeah, I suspect that was the case. Frankly I don’t think my parents were ever very good with money.

      • John Bruni
    • Babalugats

      Repo Man – How come you all let me go so long without seeing this? Shit, some of the movies I’ve seen when I could have been watching Repo Man. I’ve seen like four Thor movies. I saw that movie where Ben Affleck is a badass accountant. Has anybody ever heard of the Michael Crichton/Michael Douglas movie Coma? Cause I watched that last week. I saw the Nick Cage rapture movie. I saw Rockula. I saw When A Stranger Calls Back, even though I haven’t seen the original When A Stranger Calls. Shit. And all this time Repo Man’s just been sitting there. We were even talking about existential gearhead movies the other day, and nobody said nothin. You know, you think you have friends…

      • I’m so happy that we live in a world where I had to think for a moment about which Nick Cage rapture movie you meant.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        We thought you knew!!! We’re so sorry!

      • Son of Griff

        Were just ordinary fuckin’ people man

      • lgauge

        I saw this during my absence from this board and it is indeed fantastic.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        I, uh, kind of like Coma.

        • Babalugats

          It’s a solid enough no-frills thriller. A good dad movie. But it’s a bit draggy and the sexual politics haven’t aged well, and it could use a stronger twist. Not a terrible movie, but also not a gap that I really needed to fill.

          Actually, I kind of like The Accountant and When A Stranger Calls Back, too. But they weren’t priorities.

          • Delmars Whiskers

            What’s odd is that, at the time, Coma’s sexual politics were considered relatively progressive. “Good dad movie” about nails it. Definitely not as good as Repo Man, though.

          • Babalugats

            That’s what makes it so weird. The movie gets lecturey about how you shouldn’t expect your surgeon wife to have dinner ready as soon as you get home, but also has a “these women sure are a handful, right fellas?!” kind of attitude. It’s a 1978 movie that’s very proud of its 1982 politics.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Oh and I also saw the Badass Accountant movie – I’m still…kind of shocked it exists or is that batshit crazy.

        • Babalugats

          I won’t lie, I’d watch a sequel.
          The Accountant: Returns

      • pico

        To celebrate, let’s go get sushi… and not pay!

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹
        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          The failure of this image to embed properly has me very upset.

          • Babalugats

            Somebody piss on the floor again?

      • Jake Gittes

        You know what fuck it I’m gonna watch this right now too.

      • Miller

        Repo man ain’t no gearhead! The more you drive, the less intelligent you are!

        Anyway, this is my all-time favorite movie, so glad you loved it. And it rewards repeat viewings to pick up more weird stuff in the lattice of coincidence. Not that The Dissolve wasn’t a great idea from the start but their selection of Repo Man as the first Movie Of The Week confirmed the site’s brilliance.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      I forgot to mention that Tuesday night after the documentary I watched I’m Alan Partridge, “Alan Attraction.” Wherein Alan can’t bring himself to reveal the show hasn’t got a second series, so he fires each of his staff for petty reasons instead, then breaks the real news once he’s hiding in another room. He then goes on a date with his receptionist, which makes Lynn jealous and also ends up being hilarious because Alan’s usual lack of tact or subtlety doesn’t derail things for him. (Only his fussiness does in the end.)

      Last night, watched the new Black-ish, “Working Girl,” about Rainbow’s return to work and how she’s coping with balancing that with being a new mother. Hilarious side plot involving Ruby teaching Jack and Diane how to con their way out of schoolwork. (The spin-off Grown-ish debuted last night; we’re going to get to it eventually.)

      Also watched Fresh Off the Boat, “Big Baby.” Pretty good episode: Marvin and Louis go on a cruise; Jessica stays behind to help Honey deal with her visiting mother (Cheryl Hines); and a cool new girl takes a liking to Eddie, but he discovers some information that leads him to think she might just have an Asian fetish. All-around good and funny episode.

      I had jury duty yesterday and didn’t want to put much effort into the rest of the day, so after that we pretty much binged some old Superstore, mostly from early season 2. I like the show, but watching a bunch of it in a row, it becomes more obvious how often the plots are “Character A’s insecurity leads them to put a lot of effort into proving something about themselves to character B.”

      Also, Detroiters, “Devereux Wigs,” because it had been too long since I’d seen this one, and it’s great, from Tim’s bad singing (the reactions at karaoke are particularly fantastic) to George Wallace’s guest appearance, to the nice moment at the end of Cramblin Advertising officially becoming Cramblin-Duvet Advertising. At lunch I also watched “Dream Cruise,” which is pretty great for a number of reasons– Tommy Bananas’ flop-sweat on camera; Shiela thinking she’s pulling one over on the guys; the copper buyers who are very clear that their business is off the books– but maybe my favorite is Cecily Strong as the “Mom Lawyer,” who is raising a terrible child.

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        Also, I listened to a few radio episodes of Knowing Me, Knowing You, which is still quite funny. One of my favorite things about the show in character, as revealed in I’m Alan Partridge, is that Alan only has one regret from the show: It’s not the time he hit a child or the time he snorted cocaine on-air or the time he ambushed a guest who had been taken hostage in Liberia for two years or the time he revealed to a therapist that his wife thinks he cares more about his car and sofa than her… it’s the one actual act of journalism he performed, exposing that the Junior Minister for Housing used government funds to hire a couple of twin 17-year-old rent boys for a vacation. (Alan is a Tory, after all.)