• Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      LOST, Season Six, Episodes One and Two, “LA X”
      “I was killed by an old friend who grew tired of my company.”

      “I’m sorry you had to see me like that.”

      “Who brings a book into a cave?”

      “I need to go to the bathroom.”
      “Hold it.”
      “I can’t.”
      “Sure you can, kiddo, I believe in you.”

      I said yesterday that I’d already lost any faith in the plot, and it turns out baby me was an idiot, because this rules. The survivors are cleaning up the mess they made (Juliet’s death still wrecked me), and at the same time we’re gearing up for the war between Jacob and Smokey; the latter’s scheming is more obvious but the former is definitely a major player. Sayid is revived at the Temple, and the thudding obviousness of the symbolism colliding with the dramatic stakes turns out to be the exact kind of thing that revs my engines; in a purely literary story it would annoy me, but here it reminds me of the pleasures of John Carpenter in that it takes a clear symbol of something I’m familiar with (I at least have a general idea of what baptism Means) and brings it down to earth with dramatic consequences – Sayid is clearly going to be irrevocably changed by whatever’s happened to him, beginning with the fact that his accent has changed. Literature creates symbols, drama uses them for language.

      In contrast to that, we have the flashsideways. I always loved them in both execution and conception, and it’s quintessential LOST that we get them in that order. The opening scene, showing a slightly altered version of the original flashback that ends with the plane landing and the island underwater, is a purely LOST feeling, in that it gives us just enough information to know that this could mean anything – the first and most obvious explanation is that the plan went off perfectly, only for us to go to our heroes on the island thinking it didn’t work; my original assumption was that the timeline was split. If the central feeling of The Shield is that anything could happen, the central feelings of LOST are that anything could happen, and anything could have caused this.

      Alternate timelines are just something that revs my particular engine, and in a very literary way; I love the little remixed world that the flashsideways create, and I love it more and more as we’ll go in – if you need a deeper explanation, I guess it’s an expression of the Ship of Theseus question as applied to people, that you could shift up any number of aspects as applied to an individual’s life and still recognise Jack as Jack and Kate as Kate, and this even has a practical side in the possibilities it raises in terms of trying to grow and change as a person – how much has James changed and yet still had Sawyer in him? But I also love where it goes, because it’s a case of my beliefs, my desires in stories, the show’s beliefs, and the show’s structure all come into alignment.

      I don’t know if the show necessarily believes in the flashsideways as a representation of heaven, but to me it retroactively fixes the issue of ‘characters randomly died in the middle of their stories’ and provides a sense of closure. I interpret the ‘heaven’ aspect through your basic ‘death as a metaphor for great change’ lens, as the characters get to take their knowledge and growth with them into the next life. What’s more important than anything to me is the idea that the events of our lives mean something, and that we can learn from them, and that’s what I get out of the show’s use of the flashsideways, and it’s what I’ve gotten out of the show and the flashbacks and the flashforwards the whole run.

      This will become relevant to Locke specifically, because it’s here that we really explore Smokey’s possession of his image (I really don’t know a better way to phrase that, seeing as he doesn’t actually possess his body). We get what I thought at the time was Locke’s final epitaph, as Smokey tells us and Ben his last thought: “I don’t understand”, followed by Smokey’s judgement: “Isn’t that just the saddest thing you ever heard?”. Smokey’s interpretation of John was identical to mine, that he was a sad old man who was almost kind of admirable in his own way, and there was something cathartic in hearing it expressed that way. But it’s not the last word the show has on John, because the flashsideways will let him grow and learn from that. I suppose that’s what I always took from LOST, through all the daddy issues and specialness and smoke monsters and fate vs free will – that we can grow and learn.

      It’s a tiny thing, but I love just how much everyone involved hates the island, the central fucking plot device that is the reason we’re watching the show.

      Ownage: James kicks Jack in the head. Smokey is bulletproof, and he owns the shit out of Ilana’s team. The Others own Jack. Kate owns the Marshall. Japanese dude beats down Jack for trying to stop him from helping Sayid. Smokey beats the shit out of Richard.

      Book Club: On the flight, Desmond is reading Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The book Hurley is referring to is Fear and Trembling.

      The Sopranos, Season One, Episode Five, “College”
      “It’s funny, I couldn’t sit on the floor and think of nothing.”

      “Yo.”
      “Whaddya got?”
      “Wet shoes.”

      I admit, I was a little apprehensive about watching this episode after having it hyped up by both TVDW and Ruck – what if I didn’t like it? But I recognise its greatness; as well as the huge step forward in storytelling, it also has a huge step forward in style, going from trick shots to a genuine style that conveys mood. I shouldn’t be surprised to find that the show’s writing becomes more complex by becoming simpler – Tony and Carmela are each concerned with one action from the past (a wiseguy who became a rat and accepting Tony’s crimes respectively) and one action in the present (whacking the rat while taking his daughter to colleges and confession/communion), and Tony’s action informs Carmela’s. Weirdly, I find myself thinking of both Cowboy Bebop and Mass Effect 2, which often did basically the same thing, though Bebop went even simpler and ME2 never weaved together seemingly disparate ideas with such sophistication.

      In terms of character, we have Tony being a loving parent rubbing up against his activities. His genuine outrage at Meadow asking him if he’s in the Mafia is hilarious (“That’s an offensive stereotype!”), and Meadow’s initial openness about it is equally great. This is also the first major showing that Carmela is conflicted over her husband’s activities; her confession is genuinely moving.

      In terms of theme, I’m most interested in the show inadvertently turning into an origin story for our world now. Tony grew up working class and just barely able to comprehend college, let alone thrive in it, and when he got enough money he made sure his daughter could have the opportunity he squandered. Now we live in a world where everyone did that, college went from something special to something essential, and now every job needs a degree and everyone’s up to their tits in debt.

      I’ll be honest, I did not expect ducks to become part of the show’s language, but I love it. That’s the beauty of literature, individual elements that mean nothing outside the story gaining resonance.

      Reading the comments of TVDW’s article, I see a lot of the power for other people came from handwringing over exactly how sympathetic or unsympathetic Tony is based on his kill. “Can I rationalise liking Tony despite his crimes”, that sort of thing. I liked The Shield’s variant of this emotional journey better i.e. not giving a fuck at all.

      Ownage: Tony whacks the guy. Love that he figures out it’s the right guy based on a bust.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        David Chase makes a good case for “Death of the author” in that he could not understand why audiences liked Tony, whereas it always made absolute perfect sense to me. This is a different world with different rules just like in Goodfellas, we just see more of the clash of those rules with others, and how the old Jersey rules aren’t working anymore.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          Trying to decide whether or not Tony is worth rooting for is so much less interesting to me than the story of his values, his parent’s values, and his children’s values all clashing.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            So much of the Sopranos is about generations interacting with each other, destroying each other, the approaches of the world naturally unable to function in alliance.

        • That’s not fully true. HBO was hesitant to let Tony murder someone so soon. Chase said if Tony didn’t, the audience would lose all respect for him. So Chase knew something early on, even if he lost that perspective as the show went on.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I think that Chase was very, VERY good throughout the series about never sparing the audience Tony’s actions, it’s just that he never understood how fiction makes you instinctively sympathize with people you’d otherwise loathe (though I disagree with wallflower about the extent to which Chase hated his own characters).

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            I think Chase’s loathing of his characters becomes much more clear by the end– or, at the very least, it’s a loathing of his audience for enjoying watching them. He deliberately makes them more monstrous and grotesque as the show goes on, especially Tony. It often felt like he made a conscious choice to strip them of everything by the end except ugliness and brutality, like he was often acting the part of a dog owner rubbing his audience-dog’s nose in the poop-characters he created.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Probably the thing here is that’s what I love about the last season – the monstrosity makes sense dramatically and its less rubbing it in our faces as much as making a turn towards deliberate nihilism and horror.

          • Chase’s loathing of his characters, in my reading anyway, increased in proportion to the success of the show. I don’t think he ever expected or wanted The Sopranos to reach the iconic status it did, and that last season, to spin a Shawn Ryan line, felt like Chase saying “these characters do not get to win! You shouldn’t want them to win!” I wonder if The Sopranos would have turned out differently if it had the popularity of, say, Justified, long-running and successful but not part of the popular consciousness.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Yeah, absolutely, and that’s what makes it so disappointing. While I don’t doubt that over time their monstrous sides would eventually overtake any humanity they had, it really does seem like Chase was being reactionary when he wrote it that way, rather than sticking to the original story he intended to tell.

            (And as I’ve said before, if Chase hated how much his audience liked his characters, he shouldn’t have taken that dump truck of money to extend the series longer than he initially planned it.)

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            I think Chase’s exact line was “If he doesn’t kill this guy, then he’s full of shit, and then the show is full of shit.”

            And I do think this is an important episode, because up until now most of what we’ve seen from Tony has been the family-life and therapy side of things– he’s still a stone-cold murderous gangster, too, and tracking and killing Febby is exactly what he would do in that situation. This episode works like gangbusters because, to twist the old line, it’s the first real example where we see his obligations to family and Family collide, and how he navigates that, and that he has in no way set aside being a mobster.

      • The flashsideways – and the end of the show – always worked for me. Better, in fact, than a lot of the main plots of season six.

        Better reaction ever to the flashsideways: a friend came to my synagogue after being away for a while and asked what was new. Another friend, without missing a beat, said, “strangely enough, the shul has two timelines now.”

      • Season 6 of Lost has significant storytelling problems on the Island, but the Flash Sideways are just so, so good. Lost made me cry a few times during its run, and at least two of them were during the Flash Sidesways sequences.

        I’m so boring, but I think that “College” is probably the best episode The Sopranos did until its finale. It’s just such a perfect encapsulation of all the show’s various proclivities, and it’s moving as hell. I also think the ambivalence about whether or not we’re supposed to like Tony is a brilliant part of that story’s construction, and I think we’re supposed to feel legitimately conflict over it (as I think we’re supposed to feel throughout most of the show’s first half).

    • Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key – I’ve never seen a film inspired by ‘The Black Cat’ that I didn’t like, and this is no exception. It doesn’t hurt that the cat in this one is called SATAN and is incredibly fluffy, but the rest of the film is pretty great too – a twisted psychosexual thriller with plenty of misanthropic characters and a great soundtrack. Other than the cat, the main standout is Edwige Fenech, who really commands the screen.

      Aftermath – a tense drama from last year which follows the victim (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the cause / scapegoat (Scoot McNairy) of an air disaster as they come to terms with their grief / PTSD. It’s quite well executed, with some powerful scenes, but once it moves from “how do people deal with disaster?” to “…erm, revenge”, it loses its way. It’s based on a true story but seems to have made some changes that don’t really do anyone any favours, for whatever reason. e.g. the real disaster killed 71 people, in the film they add another 200 because… ? Arnie and Scoot are both excellent in the lead roles but it’s not particularly notable otherwise.

    • Princess Cyd–It’s a movie full of great incident and generous characterizations, and there are so many moments that I watched and found so precisely human. So I enjoyed it a ton based on those pieces. However, it’s also a movie so strangely devoid of conflict that when conflict does appear, it feels really joltingly out of place–e.g. there’s a subplot about a murder-suicide that I’m really not sure at all belongs in this movie. Still, it’s great on a hang-out-type rubric, and I don’t begrudge my time spent with it.

    • I tried to watch The Flash, but the episode wouldn’t load. Then I jumped to Black Lightning and got about halfway through, when the stream didn’t come back from commercial. Clearly a bad night for the CW’s computer. Will try again tonight.

      What I did see of Black Lightning continues to encourage me, but how long can the show go before Jeff stops playing the “I won’t be the hero again” card? I like the idea, though, of a former hero in early middle age attempting a comeback. Always been a fan of that sort of thing. When Kurt Busiek uses older heroes and villains in Astro City, it’s great.

      But having failed to stay with the CW, it was back to Batman ’89 for a bit. The great thing about knowing a film inside out is that you can watch it in installments. This snippet included the delightful little romp by Joker and his minions through the museum (very loosely playing off previous spoofs of the art world by the Joker in the comics and in the old TV show). Interestingly, the painting the Joker likes is by Francis Bacon, who it turns out is Christopher Nolan’s favorite artist. Bacon’s work apparently played a role in Nolan fleshing out the Heath Ledger Joker. What goes around comes around.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Bacon is mine too! I imagine Burton snuck that Bacon bit (pun not intended) in there as an art fan and it shows how much both the Batman and Joker feel like aspects of Burton: violent outsiders who approach the world in radically different ways but are symbiotic. “I created you, you created me” is silly in a Batman-Joker context, but as Jungian pop poetry its fantastic.

        • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

          You should own that pun, it’s a good one.

        • The Batman-Joker symbiosis sort of existed prior to this, but Burton went a long way to cement it (even if most comic books utterly reject the idea that the Joker killed the Waynes).

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Its always been a part of the story but I never liked the idea that the Joker killed them either. Thats too neat.

      • Didn’t know that was CN’s favorite. I like the idea of the dry & proper Nolan loving the screaming, visceral art by Bacon (I dig Bacon, too).

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Cheers, Up to Episode 7. A very good time and I loved Norm’s boss and his weird drunken confession, “They always make fun of the graceful fellows don’t they??” 7 has Norm in a toga at his terrible party and its both seemingly a classic and also a demonstration of how dated the views on assault are. Its dumb to harp on a series from thirty years ago its just also weird how Diane gets man handled and grabbed and she shrugs it off pretty fucking quickly (she’s just bummed that he was a dick).

    • Glorbes

      A Matter of Life and Death! On the BIG SCREEN! OH MY GOD!!!!

      Anyway, as some of you may know, I am a massive Powell and Pressburger fan, and I also live in Eastern Canada, where there are no cinemas that show old or independent movies on a consistent basis. So I was BLOWN AWAY by the fact that Halifax got a six day engagement of this movie. I can’t believe I got to see an Archers movie on the big screen!

      It was magnificent.

      • AMMI in Queens is showing this over the weekend:

        http://www.movingimage.us/visit/calendar/2018/02/04/detail/a-matter-of-life-and-death

        It’s tempting but the timing is a bit off for me. We will see.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        Many years ago, there was an arthouse theater in Des Moines that played a double bill of The Red Shoes and Tales Of Hoffmann on its gargantuan screen. I’d never seen either, and the overpowering emotions of The Red Shoes writ large literally left me curled up in my seat, whimpering.

        • Glorbes

          A perfectly natural reaction.

          “Why do you want to dance?”

          “Why do you want to live?”

    • lgauge

      Titicut Follies: I didn’t know much about this going in, so I assumed early on that it was set at a prison. This then made me very distressed because there were so many people with severe mental health issues and I couldn’t believe that they just kept these people in a normal prison. Then, when it became clear that this actually was a mental institution, the whole thing flipped and I became horrified that they kept so many of these mental patients in what was basically a prison. Though you do get to see some patients who enjoy a more normal existence, something more within what you might expect (at least at the time this was set), that never takes away from the absolute horror of everyone else’s experiences. Even the guy usually seen leading the jollier side of things (not sure if he’s in charge of the place, but he’s definitely in some kind of position of authority) projects something very sinister. Wiseman captures all this with unflinching wakefulness, to the extent that it’s almost shocking what he’s been allowed to film. It’s an almost non-stop parade of inhumanity, in the way people are stripped down and lead around naked, mocked and just generally kept in a constant state of humiliation. It’s hard to watch. The ending text is like something out of the blackest of satires. All in all this is essential viewing, but it sure is unpleasant.

      • Miller

        Banned in Massachusetts for decades. How’d you see it?

        • lgauge

          Screening at the local repertory cinema.

          • The Ploughman

            Are they doing a Wiseman retrospective (since you mentioned Ex Libris yesterday)?

          • lgauge

            A small one, yeah. In a week or so they’ll screen At Berkeley, which I’m hoping to catch.

      • The Ploughman

        My journey to complete Errol Morris has made me wonder also about the access documentarians sometimes get. In Morris’s case, it’s almost always completely ego driven. I think generally, an unawareness of the horror of what someone is doing – or the belief that everybody will see it their way if they get the chance to explain themselves – creates a large blind spot that’s too late to fix when it becomes clear the truth is not on their side. It’s not surprising Morris has been sued by at least two of his subjects, and Wiseman – who is less obviously intrusive on the material – has been subjected to blowback from entire communities.

        • lgauge

          Yeah. Considering the way they act in front of the camera, there’s definitely something like that going on.

    • ZoeZ

      More Legion, but I reluctantly decided that it’s not clicking for me. It’s visually sophisticated and thrilling on a cinematic level, but the storytelling, characterization, and worldbuilding don’t equal the aesthetics. Some of it is even parody-level clumsy, like the redshirt-style way a character is abruptly given a personality and background and focus just so she can be jeopardized/killed as a cliffhanger. And too much of it feels beautiful or weird for the sake of being beautiful or weird, with characters doing things to advance the overall visual effect rather than because their motivations have authentically led them to those actions.

      • I felt the exact same way about Legion. I think the moment that made me realize I just wasn’t digging it was when they had the montage to Radiohead’s “Daily Mail.” I was like, “This is full of stuff I should love, but I am just slightly bored.”

        • Son of FilmFlamMan

          This smarts a bit.

      • Rosy Fingers

        I’m in total agreement. Legion was a very good screen projection for a Flaming Lips concert, but I could never get onto its storytelling level. It wasn’t particularly immersive in the main guy’s perception, which is what it often seemed to be aiming for, because there was too much acknowledgement of “real world” and metatextual perspective. Meanwhile the characters were stylish but formless somehow.

        Also, Jermaine Clement did that role so much better in Gentlemen Broncos, even if that movie was severely flawed.

        • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

          It’s me, the guy who responds to this comment with a snarky “Oh, you mean a Noah Hawley show turned out to be deficient in the actual writing and did a lot of coasting on acting, cinematography, and the intellectual property he adapted?”

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            *Sigh* Fargo Season Two, man, good on paper, good acting, but like something’s just missing there (that and Hawley does not understand Camus).

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Season two was definitely a “knows the words but not the music” season for me. My biggest complaint was that so many elements were simply lifted from other works, mostly Coen Brothers movies; every time I actually started to get immersed in the world, Hawley would do something that was the equivalent of “Member this other movie that was better than my show?”

          • Rosy Fingers

            Haha. I haven’t actually watched Fargo because I feared that those very same elements would be discernable like that.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Some shows prove themselves to reveal more and more to you with time; Fargo season one was a show that the more I thought about it afterward, the less I liked it*. And Fargo season two was a show that suggested Hawley tries to cover up his paper-thin stories by constantly referencing other, better work by other, better artists.

            (* – beyond the stuff that just didn’t make sense, the character names were the sort of too-clever-by-half thing that just became eye-rolling: The bad guy is named MALVO. The good detective is named SOLVERson. The idiot trainer is named CHUMPh. etc. etc.)

          • Rosy Fingers

            It keeps popping up in my Netflix recommendations and I keep thinking, no, I’ll watch The X-Files instead.

          • clytie

            I only watched the first season, but my reaction to Fargo was pretty much identical.

      • Son of FilmFlamMan

        Hmm.

    • The Ploughman

      Lucky thing I’m not a robot, ‘cause I encountered a pair o’ docs! (Holds for applause)

      Tim’s Vermeer – Not what I was expecting – I thought it was more of an F is for Fake exploration – but engrossing nonetheless. Tim makes a pretty good case for Vermeer having used the lens and mirror set up – which makes Vermeer a unique obsessive as much or more than a “great” painter. A fathomable genius, as Penn observes in a good summary of the film.

      Mr. Death – Errol Morris should write Simpson’s episodes. Fred A. Leuchter, Jr comes up with engineering-based improvements to execution equipment (particularly the electric chair) and through a series of convoluted human logic leaps, becomes a poster boy for Holocaust denial. Leuchter’s dismissal of reality in favor of his own advancement puts him much closer to Rumsfeld than MacNamara on the Morris Scale; his ego should be evident from the first moments as he allows Morris to sit him in a faraday cage for a lightning-infused intro. I fear Morris has been creating an elegant map of the decline of Western civilization with his career.

    • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

      Emperor of the North. This movie makes a good point, a man’s not a train and a train’s not a man. Primarily because a train can’t have a suspenseful axe versus chain fight on the back of a man. There’s some great period dialogue here and the hobo camps look so friendly and inviting that, had I lived back then, I would have happily been a hobo. My hobo name: 2 Cents. Because I wouldn’t have had two cents to rub together and I would have smelled like both piss and shit. Thanks to Quinn the Eskimo for the heads up on this movie, I never would have seen it otherwise.

      • DJ JD

        I didn’t mention it when Quinn plugged that movie, but everyone who watches it should keep the original lyrics to Big Rock Candy Mountain in mind, too. Yow.

        • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

          Oh, I know. I wouldn’t have actually wanted to be a hobo. It was a tough life filled with more rape and murder than this movie portrays.

          • DJ JD

            I meant it the other way: that movie is hard enough to almost feel like the world that song describes, at least in some form that the moviegoing public would accept.

          • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

            That’s interesting. I felt that there was a real camaraderie among the hobos with A. No. 1 as their leader. But obviously they’re not going for realism, like say Ironweed.

          • DJ JD

            I didn’t mean it so much for the hobos themselves as for the feel of the movie in general, the cold and the grit and the blood and the stench. The song lyrics show that it was sanitized some, of course, but it still doesn’t feel terribly sanitized.

      • Miller

        The hobo world in the movie is pretty awesome and I like how everything is just to maintain A Number 1’s rep in it.

        • Quinn the Eskimo

          When I saw that world-building for the first time, I was instantly transfixed – it almost felt like something out of a gritty low-budget sci-fi movie, but tied to a real subculture.

      • The Ploughman

        I don’t know what the grown-up version of LOLLLLLL is, so consider this it.

        Where is everyone seeing this movie? I’m striking out on streaming and library services.

        • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

          Here’s where I watched it: http://putlockers.fm/watch/gdVr8qdD-emperor-of-the-north.html

          (Turn your Adblock on if you have it)

        • Miller

          It’s on DVD but possibly out of print, I found it fairly cheap on Amazon.

        • Quinn the Eskimo

          If you’ve got a good video rental store near you, they might have it. I rented my copy from Cinefile Video in LA (who, by the way, are literally the best).

      • Quinn the Eskimo

        My work here is done. *bows*

      • Rosy Fingers

        I’ve got this one lined up for next week and all of you are getting me excited.

    • Black Narcissus – The cinematography was beautiful, the real star of the movie. The cuts to pink flowers and the red dress were stunning (the use of red as a whole, really, to signify passions). I get what the story was doing, but it wasn’t subtle enough or bold enough for me to fully work. I’d have liked to see it go more in either direction instead of sitting square in the middle. I did like Dean – projecting a casual rugged Manliness without having to flex or act Manly – he just was.

      • Probably for the best that he didn’t flex, in those shorts.

        • Glorbes

          David Farrar is basically a personified cock in that movie. And despite the fact that he’s a boorish prick, I kind of like him.

      • Glorbes

        Subtlety is not what the Archers excelled at. They tend to be all about big emotions, rendered largely.

        • It’s my 3rd by them (4th if you count Peeping Tom), and this was my least fav so far. I wish they had gone bigger and bolder with the emotions. The last act was gripping; I wish the whole movie had been like that.

          • Glorbes

            It’s my favourite Archers film. I love them all, but that one really blew me away. I knew nothing about it before I saw it.

    • Miller

      End of Wire Season 2 – more despairing than the end of season one, where many bad guys were put away and the sense of life going on, in good and bad, was tied more to individuals playing the game. Here the game and the institutions grind on, the FBI is crucial to manintaining the investigation but also destroys it right at the moment of culmination, and was only ever interested in the killing the union anyway. The murder board is cleared but the allegedly justice-hunting McNulty is already on to a new obsession and bringing Kima with him. And the condos come up while everything else crashes down.

      Getting sauced and reading old Achewoods — god damn was this comic great, I need to do a full archive trawl again. Onstad’s language is better than any ten “literary” novelists and his cartooning uses posture and expression brilliantly. It would lose untold amounts of money but someone needs to make a movie of the Great Outdoor Fight storyline, dammit.

      • DJ JD

        I’m pretty sure you’re the one who got me on to Achewood, and you’re right, it’s amazing. It displaced Gunnerkrigg Court as my favorite webcomic in the “I can’t possibly explain to anyone and you really have to read a fair amount of it to even get what it is that I love so much about it but I promise it’s worth it” category.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I have had the same problem describing Achewood to people, which is a sign of its greatness but is a real issue in recommending.

        • Miller

          Hahaha Gunnerkrigg can at least be boiled down to “fantasy set at boarding school” even if that does not remotely do it justice (and dang is it getting weird right now). What is Achewood — “talking cats and stuffed animals portray the joys, failures, problems and idiocies of manhood at the beginning of the millennium?”

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Oh my god I fucking love Achewood. I’ve been trying to nudge my buddy into reading it because he IS Roast Beef (by default I’m Ray but without the alcoholism and sweet bling).

        • Miller

          Is being your friend like watching an endless loop of a kid riding his bike into a telephone pole? http://achewood.com/index.php?date=04202004

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Potentially.

          • DJ JD

            See, it’s great that you linked to Achewood because I started reading Achewood instead of doing pretty much everything else I was going to do.

          • Miller

            Excellent, my work here is done! And yeah, it is insanely easy to get sucked into its world, even just clicking on random comics.

            EDIT: I mean once you know it like you do, it is endlessly revisitable that way. Probably not good for a newbie though…

      • David Lynch-directed Cartilage Head movie, pls.

        • Miller

          Hell yes. Achewood didn’t get creepy often but when it did it was intense, Nice Pete kidnapping Philippe comes to mind.

          • DJ JD

            Guh or everything with poor Philippe going back home. What even was that?

          • Miller

            Oh man, Achewood got weird and hit-or-miss toward the end but that storyline was beautifully sad.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            That was fucking terrifying (and when I knew what I was reading was reaching another level of quality).

    • jroberts548

      It. My wife is out of town, so I took the chance to watch a horror movie.

      This was good. Muschietti is good at creating a spooky atmosphere and visually interesting creature shots. This was also true with Mama. It was weird seeing the little dude from Stranger Things in this, which is clearly the source material for the show.

      One minor reservation regarding the writing: Too often, Pennywise just threatens the kids but doesn’t do anything. At the end, they explain it feeds on fear as well flesh, so it logically makes sense it would sometimes just scare kids. However, when you keep seeing it fail to kill, it becomes less menacing. Especially since the first kill involved luring his victim, not scaring him..

      It also bothered me that the adults of Derry ignore that they’re in such a dangerous town. Surely they wouldn’t let all these kids die and do nothing?

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        This isn’t as strongly explained in the movie but in the book part of the Derry history is that Pennywise has put a sort of hold or spell over the town so that the adults outright don’t notice or ignore how many kids get murdered, what they actually see before their eyes, all of that. This is much clearer in the novel as Mike interviews old time residents and they know something horrible is happening but can barely speak of it. (Its a genius metaphor for child versus adult perceptions of the world too.)

        • jroberts548

          That, and more focus on it feeding on fear, would have made for a thematically and metaphorically richer movie.

          On the other hand, I like that, I really enjoyed that pennywise is a monster, and not a metaphor (looking at you Babadook).

          I’m going to try to watch the Adam Curtis documentary Hypernormalisation tonight, which may be an interesting point of comparison for adults pretending everything is normal when it is not.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Ooh, great documentary. I think I left a comment here when I watched it recently.

      • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

        I thought It was like a filmed version of a haunted house. You’re going along enjoying this nostalgic look at a group of outcast kids growing up during the 1980s and then bam! Pennywise jumps out and scares you. I can see why it was so popular, everyone likes a haunted house.

        The linear story structure, though, missed something that the novel and the miniseries both contained, which was a meditation on the childhood trauma that these kids dealt with and how it affected their adult lives. Maybe they will deal with that in Chapter 2, or maybe it will just be Pennywise jumping out and scaring the shit out of the audience again.

    • clytie

      I re-watched The Breakfast Club. Still great.

      • Yesterday I found out that Simple Minds are still making music and even have an album coming out here soon. Which was weird. It seems like an awfully long and prolific life for a band I’d assumed was a one-hit wonder.

    • Suicide Squad, extended cut. Well, the first 40 minutes anyway, after which nothing had happened in drab colors and the most interesting thing was Viola Davis failing to cover her embarrassment. Then Goth Cara Delevingne summoned a Transformer and I was done.

      • DJ JD

        I think you meant to say professional archaeologist Cara Delevingne. Harrison Ford only wished he was that believable.

        • Most archaeological journals do have articles with the line “upon taking the ancient artifact and snapping its head off. . .,” yes.

          • DJ JD

            See, exactly! And covers like an ’80s teenybopper magazine, because she seriously looked like she was 18. “Your friends will just die when you show them this totally rad way to unleash the ancient evil and ruin your dig forever!”

          • Quinn the Eskimo

            When even Lara Croft would be ashamed of your archaeological practices, you should probably start considering an English major instead.

          • Rosy Fingers

            I’m going to choose to ignore your sick burn on my chosen field of study.

          • As an English major… yeah, I really can’t defend it… certainly not with my school’s program…

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Being an English major is simultaneously pursuing the degree and being pretty much unable to defend doing so.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Shit man, I don’t even think Indy broke anything.

          • Babalugats

            Definitely not on purpose, for you know, absolutely no reason whatsoever.

            This movie’s great.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        You missed the racist Latino fire guy saying “I’m not losing another family!” despite knowing these people for, like, 20 minutes. At least the Guardians movie just called them friends.

        I hate this movie.

        • DJ JD

          Poor Latino fire guy. That’s about the worst I ever feel for an actor: a crap role that nobody could win at, but it’s a big enough opportunity that all you can do is swing for the fences and hope.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Yeah, its so not his fault and that goes for a decent amount of the actors in this (except Jared Leto, who is just…terrible.)

          • DJ JD

            I’ll leave him be, but I really did like one of our fine commenters here who pointed out to me that he accidentally hit on a “Joker as that one annoying guy who should just eff right off” sort of genius in there.

          • Babalugats

            Well, whoever this mystery man is, he sounds wise.

          • Miller

            Hey, he at least gets shit to do, as opposed to Redshirt First Nations Probable Rapist Guy.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Oh and my other “I feel bad for this actor” is when they play pedophiles and like child murderers because they clearly look like stereotypical ones (husky, bald, creepy looking, etc.) Its not their fault!

          • DJ JD

            Oh goodness yes. Poor Kevin Gage (Waingro from Heat.)

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Fun fact: Gage got arrested for growing pot (which is bullshit to me but whatever) and everyone in prison left him alone because they were scared of Waingro.

          • DJ JD

            Hah! I didn’t know that; that’s awesome. His professional stills make him look like a nice enough guy, but he sure has a solid deadeye in there when he wants it.

          • Son of FilmFlamMan

            I feel that Jay Hernandez’s Diablo is the heart of the movie. I really wished that he didn’t die at the end of the film even though you knew that was gonna happen. Like the movie is terrible, but I feel that he stood out the most to me. I feel terrible for Viola Davis.

          • DJ JD

            I felt a form of that: I thought that’s what they were going for, but I also felt like Jai Courtney’s Boomerang got to the heart of that movie in a lot of ways, too, and in ways that Ayer may or may not have been aware of. Courtney certainly came out of movie all right.

            Actually, I like quite a few of the cast members (and now that this has died down some, I’ll call @disqus_Pvn3kEV3Sl:disqus back here because he saw through this movie’s idiosyncrasies far more effectively than I did. I have no idea if he wants me to keep pestering him about this, but I really enjoyed his thoughts on this movie.) Smith’s charisma carried a ton, I remain a firm Joel Kinnaman fan who dearly wants him to get the A-list work I think he deserves and I’ve really come around on Robbie’s performance. Which, on that note, I did Hernandez a disservice to not look his name up, because I really did think he did a decent job with Diablo. That character was one of those that practically anyone would’ve found difficult to convey, in ways both intentional and unwitting. I felt for him, and I hope his career goes well.

            And Davis: my opinion of her as an actress only went up, really, because that character was just a preposterous moron on paper and she still made each individual scene work as well as anyone could, regardless of the cumulative effect they all had when put together.

        • ZoeZ

          Without having seen it at all, I am boldly prepared to conjecture that Suicide Squad was cobbled together by someone who had watched Guardians of the Galaxy while high and written down a confusing mess of “EIGHTIES MUSIC?????” and “it’s like FAMILY.”

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            David Ayer had like one idea a long time ago and he’s either avoided the best parts of it or rewrote it over and over. I think this is the former.

          • Also, someone then read that note and interpreted it as “all the Eighties music” and therefore decreed that no excerpt could be longer than ten seconds in order to get it all in.

        • Son of FilmFlamMan

          How is El Diablo racist? He may be stereotype, but I think he’s about as harmless as Speedy Gonzales.

      • Miller

        Standard recommendation for the Assault on Arkham animated flick, an actual Suicide Squad movie that is gleefully nasty in the right way (this is a somewhat controversial opinion) and at the very least commits – no fucking family nonsense.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Shit, the JLU episode featuring the Suicide Squad was way more fun than this and it was 20 minutes long (also had Rosenbaum as Deadshot).

          • Miller

            Oh fuck yes. A “kids” show is more badass and even better more ruthless (a certain abandonment and implied death at the end) than this bullshit movie. Darwyn Cooke owns.

    • Quinn the Eskimo

      The Raid 2 – watching this for the first time only helped confirm my theory that Gareth Evans might be the true heir to the John Woo throne. Like Woo, Evans has a knack for creating gorgeously choreographed action that constantly dances along the line between badass and incredibly traumatic, and his focus on men trying to maintain moral codes in worlds that won’t let them have any doesn’t hurt the comparison either. I’m still a little bit more in love with the first film (this one has a deeper, more expansive story, but it just doesn’t feel as tight and intense as the original), but when this needs to kill it, it kills it. Also, I know Iko Uwais is awesome and all, but y’all are sleeping on Yayan Ruhian, and I won’t allow it.

      • pico

        Yeah, I wish he’d lopped off the opening half hour or so of the movie: the exposition dump does no favors for the pacing, but once it gets going… hooooooly hell. That car sequence is one of the best I’ve ever seen outside of George Miller.

        • Quinn the Eskimo

          I can usually pick my favorite action scene in a film easily. The fact that I can’t choose between four or five different scenes says a lot about this movie.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      Tuesday night’s Fresh Off the Boat episodes, which were both good. I liked the first one and its A-plot of Louis deciding to treat Eddie more like a man better than the second one, although the second one had Ray Ford, long missed since the glorious Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23. Anyway, read more here.

      Episodes 3 and 4 of LA to Vegas, a show that’s turned out to be better and more fun than I expected– not great, but quite good for a network sitcom. Episode 3 uses the Dylan McDermott / Dermot Mulroney confusion to pretty good effect.

      More classic Office. Season 1 can still be weird and awkward, but season 2’s “The Fire” is great, in particular for how catty Pam becomes toward Katy (Amy Adams) while Jim is dating her. In part, it’s because when she first appears, in season 1’s “Hot Girl”, lots of people refer to her as “hotter Pam,” but of course mostly it’s just the jealousy of someone who doesn’t want the object of their affection (even if they don’t realize it) to get that attention elsewhere.

  • Conor Malcolm Crockford

    If Netflix’s use of algorithm’s is any indication then this is worrying as their attempts to create Content that certain demographics and audiences will inherently like based on data predictions always has sort of an Uncanny Valley effect, like the shows at their worst were too tailor made for other people to like them and they thus never have the idiosyncrasy or unique quality that made shows like The Sopranos or The Shield hits. If Hollywood tries to manufacture media that’s designed for responses rather than organically creating them, that’s not good for writing or creativity.

    • Drunk Napoleon

      In fairness, it’s only a more sophisticated attempt at what they’ve been doing for decades.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Sure, but that was already a bad trend and this would be like a worrying jump start in going further.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          My point isn’t so much that it’s not bad as it is that everything I know about human nature suggests that someone, somewhere will try and make 2 + 2 = art, and it’s no more dangerous to the form than another NCIS spin-off is.

          • Miller

            I dunno, engineering is different from copying – at worst I can see us starving ourselves to death in puddles of urine in front of an emotionally engineered Infinite Jest cartridge, but I would at least have the wherewithal to use an empty beer can for NCIS: Muncie.

  • Heh, I saw a short film last year that used this kind of stuff as a jumping off point for some Black-Mirror-esque tech-horror. They clearly had Pixar in mind with the setting, even.

  • DJ JD

    I think it’s the way of the future, but as it is with many of these things, I don’t think it’s going to be quite so revolutionary or reliable as they’re hoping. Like, I get Pepsi et al using stem cells to predict taste bud reactions to new flavors, and I could see how someone in the moviegoing world might see that and think it generalizes, but the experience of watching a movie is subjective enough – not to mention influenced by the viewer’s previous experiences, including other movies – that I could see it being a source of as much false or misleading data as useful data. In other words, it wouldn’t surprise me if it followed CGI’s arc almost exactly: caught on like wildfire and inadvertently led to a ton of crap getting made before they got more sophisticated with their methods.

    • The Ploughman

      This an kind of where I fall. I see it like when they used mall surveys to come up with pop song hooks. That got us the Spice Girls, which was successful on a commercial level, but hardly universal in appeal.

      I hadn’t heard about the Pepsi thing. That sounds… kinda gross.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        It’s the first step to Soylent Cola.

        • The Ploughman

          “It varies from person to person.”

          • DJ JD

            Beat me to it!

          • Me too.

            Probably, in fact, all of us.

          • The Ploughman

            At the risk of sounding like Yogi Berra, If I can’t be original, I can at least be first.

          • DJ JD

            Well and I posted that because I was in the process of wrapping up my other post so I could post exactly that when I saw yours appear. I lost the footrace, fair and square.

      • DJ JD

        I had someone I dearly love tell me PEPSI GOT OBAMA TO LET THEM USE STEM CELLS IN THEIR DRINKS, which got me researching it a bit because wow. I found the science interesting and the social implications highly complicated, and I don’t talk about it much for obvious reasons.

    • Miller

      Ideally a bunch of fetishists would crash the monitoring system so responses go through the roof for things like feet or diapers and movies are fucked with accordingly.

      • DJ JD

        Oh dear, nobody tell 4chan about this. It’s actually pretty important that they not hear about this you guys.

      • Jake Gittes

        Feet eh? I know at least one filmmaker who’d be very much onboard with that.

      • pico

        Like when John Waters took the most cutting edge scratch-n-sniff technology to give the audience what it really wanted: flatulence and dirty shoes.

        • DJ JD

          I started to type something about how the Cecil B. Demented VR Experience was coming to a Six Flags franchise near you, but honestly it doesn’t strike me as quite so far-fetched as I assumed when I started the joke.

  • Glorbes

    Poppy Crum being a scientist means she’s about due to become a Batman villain.

    • Miller

      “Tremble, Gotham, before the evil that is baked into my very core! Nothing will top my reign of terror! Your ignorance will not save you, for you will know the MUFFIN WOMAN!”

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        That does sound like a plausible Gotham TV show villain after the friggin’ Balloon Man.

      • Quinn the Eskimo

        I’d go for Drury Lane over Poppy Crum as a name for the Muffin Woman, but hey, personal preference.

  • Babalugats

    Once again The Apple proves to be our most prescient science fiction film.

    • Delmars Whiskers

      I just finished my morning BIM break.

  • ZoeZ

    This is startling apropos, since I just this morning finished a novel that dealt largely with whether or not emotional experiences could be synthesized and effectively hacked. The book was not especially good, but that particular idea was unnerving.

    I ultimately think that human responses to art are too individualized and complicated for them to be easily hacked, but, Luddite-like, I’d also prefer it if nobody ever tried to do it, just in case.

    • DJ JD

      See, now you’ve got me thinking that I missed out on a huge cyberpunk element to this question, because it didn’t even occur to me but this is one of the most cyberpunk things we’ve ever done.

      • ZoeZ

        He felt like television, tuned to a dead channel.

    • Miller

      Isn’t that what music can do on a very basic level? Major chord = happy, D minor = the saddest thing – play them over a neutral scene and you’re hacking the viewer’s emotional response.

      • As usual, leave it to Philip K. Dick to take that idea and run all the way, with the Penfield Mood Organ in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

        Milan Kundera has a really cool essay on why he got into the music of Xenakis that makes exactly that point: so much music provokes a simple, automatic response in the listener.
        At the time the tanks rolled into Prague, he had gotten deeply sick of that it–it wasn’t just sentimentality, but the way sentimentality was used as a cover for violence. Xenakis is that straight-up violence, with nothing concealing it. I suppose he’d call it “the opposite of kitsch.”

    • “since I just this morning finished a novel” is easily the most awesome and adorable thing you’ve ever said. I mean, I just this morning saw a really cool sunrise and was feeling pretty darn impressed with myself until I saw this.

      • ZoeZ

        However, I was too busy looking at the novel to watch the sunrise, so it all balances out.

    • pico

      Startling apropos for me, too, but much less cooler: I’m translating a set of articles right now on the way the brain encodes experiences, and whether consciousness is decipherable (and if so, how?) General sense is that yes, it is to a limited extent, but are those limitations a function of our limited technology, or are they hard-wired into the encoding process and nature of consciousness?

      I’d much rather be reading a novel, but they at least pay me to do this.

  • DJ JD

    I had a general discussion question I wanted to ask you fine folks, too. Historically, the presence of magic or sorcery in stories was often a source of fear and uncertainty, since it was implicitly understood to be proof that the assumed rules of the universe either weren’t accurate or could be broken. If the mechanism of magic was explained, it often followed that logic, as well: either thaumaturgical, a physical change in the rules of the world, or theurgical, appealing to some higher power to bring about the desired effect for you. These were not considered to be wise, sound or healthy practices, generally, and practitioners were feared.

    Fast forward past Francis Bacon, the Enlightenment and the Beatles, and we’ve got a situation where “magic” has turned into something closer to social psychology’s definition: you wish for things, and they happen. In video games and pen-and-paper RPGs, it’s usually explicitly scientific any more: press button A to emit fireball B–and demon C never accidentally appears when you press button A. Not only that, you don’t have to answer to demon C for using fireball B, to say nothing of degrading the consistency of the laws of physics by introducing the very concept of A, B or C in the first place.

    So! Blah blah blah here’s my point: we’ve seen a fascinating waning of faith in the scientific method (or at least, our ability to use it objectively) and yet our cinematic trappings for the supernatural remain as mundane as ever. Apart from the horror genre (which I don’t care for but which has taken this question in its own funky directions,) what are some recent movies that have really kept the supernatural in that place of implicit, existential terror?

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      An obvious one I think but The Witch, whatever theories Eggers has played with as to the psychedelic fungi in the farm, clearly demonstrates an unwavering, horrific belief in the religious and the magical, neither of which are very positive forces in the movie. If the Devil of this movie is real then what is God like?

      • DJ JD

        Isn’t that a horror movie though?

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Wait did you not want horror movies?

          • DJ JD

            Sorry, yeah, I was wondering about dark sorceries outside of the horror genre. I think horror has tackled this head-on, and while the directions they’ve gone to keep it fresh have been interesting, I don’t typically care for the genre, unfortunately.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Ah I see. Well The Holy Mountain uses magic as a sort of existential source of inspiration but most of my examples would be horror.

    • lgauge

      Lynch in general I’d say, though the extent to which his movies (at least some of them) might count as horror is up for debate.

    • Game of Thrones – the rules of magic aren’t clear, and magic users are treated with awe and fear. Even as its become more commonplace, it’s still as inexplicable.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Good one! I like how magic is treated by most people in the books/series as something that’s gone forever or as fucking terrifying (which…they’re right).

      • DJ JD

        Ooo, good one. The whole low-fantasy genre in general probably applies to this, really; I didn’t think of them.

        • There’s a rule of thumb I’ve seen for magic systems* where the more detailed the magic system, the more important it should be for resolving the conflict. In Harry Potter, magic is very linear and well-defined, and nuances in it are key to defeating Voldemort. In GOT, magic will be important, but it’s vague, so something handwavy will likely defeat the White Walkers amidst the warring (or substitute “Star Wars” and “The Force” for another example). LOTR, too, has vague magic rules, and magic is only vaguely needed to destroy the One Ring. It’s not just if magic is important, but how legalistically is it treated.

          One of my favorite authors is Guy Gavriel Kay, whose fantasy novels are just one or two twists away from historical fiction. Magic rarely appears in his novels, but when they do, it terrifies everyone.

          *If I can find the source I’ll link it.

          • DJ JD

            Please and thank you! That reminds me of Warhammer and – by extension – Michael Moorcock, neither of whom had this problem at all, either. And if Warhammer isn’t steamrolling the MCU in theaters these days, it’s certainly still an active license.

          • Got it!

            “Well,” I said. “Obviously magic has to have rules.”

            And every other person on the panel disagreed with me violently. “If you have lots of rules and boundaries for your magic,” they explained, “then you lose your sense of wonder! Fantasy is all about wonder! You can’t restrict yourself, or your imagination, by making your magic have rules!”

            I was dumbfounded. Suddenly, I realized that most of the reading I’d done on the subject had been produced by a segment of the population who liked a particular kind of magic. However, there appeared to be another complete school of thought on the matter. I struggled to defend myself for the rest of the panel, and left thinking that everyone else there must have really weak magic systems in their books.

            Then, I thought about it for a while. Can’t someone have a good story that does things differently from the way I do it? Can’t you have magic without explaining lots of rules and laws for their magic? Tolkien didn’t really explain his magic.

            https://brandonsanderson.com/sandersons-first-law/
            https://coppermind.net/wiki/Sanderson%27s_Laws_of_Magic

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            From what I’ve read even in like real life magic (don’t laugh!) there are radically different definitions of what magic is and what it can be.

          • DJ JD

            Thank you again. Tolkien inspired so much of this that it’s amazing how little of it actually resembles his work, on the point. Although I do agree with him that “magic needs rules”, I think of them as an entirely fictional/mechanical conceit–the author needs to know in advance what his/her magic can’t do, so s/he can craft his/her conflicts accordingly. (I cribbed that wholesale from Rowling, but she’s not wrong.)

          • Miller

            Blergh, I am not a big fan of Rowling’s magic because there is no sense of where it comes from.

          • Babalugats

            I think rules are the enemy of magic. I mean, it’s good for an author to have an idea of how he wants the magic to function, but the audience should be left unaware. If you don’t want to work with the unknown, you should tell stories about engineers instead of wizards. The unpredictability is what is unique about the genre.

            I think the problem that authors run into with undefined magic isn’t the lack of rules, it’s that their conflicts are too external. Think of Star Wars. In the first film every time we see the force it does something different, and it is always an extension of character. It makes Obi-Wan supernaturally persuasive and Darth Vader supernaturally intimidating, but the characters never reuse those powers, because they wouldn’t have the same audience impact once we’ve already seen them. The climax is less the material question of whether or not the Death Star will be destroyed, but the emotional one of whether or not Like will put his faith in this thing. Imagine if the movie had already established the rules of the force, and we had seen Luke doing force-aided target practice a few scenes earlier. The ending would become entirely mechanical. Too many fantasy films suffer from this. The climax is all about getting the right macguffin in the right spot and saying the right words, and not about characters making decisions. The story becomes more beholden to the mythology than the emotion. If your magic is restricting your story options, you’re doing magic wrong.

          • DJ JD

            I agree; I said that poorly. I just mean that an author should have some outside idea of what can’t be fixed by magic, because if literally anyone can do anything, you don’t have much of a story, just some flashing lights and meaningless (if not fully incomprehensible) outcomes. I don’t mean that the audience should see those mechanics at all in the best of cases.

            I take Tolkien as a solid standard, on the point: he had what appear to be multiple, mutually-incompatible systems of magic at work, and he had clear attitudes worked out towards those systems among his characters, but he never really let slip how it all held together save by what the characters said to one another–and they were often as in the dark about unfamiliar systems as we were. Gandalf’s inherent, native power as a Maiar, the Elves “skillful work” and Sauron’s dark sorceries that drove so much grief (not to mention the main story) all clearly had mechanisms and limitations to them, but he never spelled them out for us. I wasn’t saying I wanted to see that – your point about Star Wars Ep4 is right dead on – but I do think that authors should have a sense of those answers inside their own heads. That’s what I was trying to say.

            (Having said all that, Jack Vance’s Dying Earth does come to mind as an interesting contrast, on the point.)

          • Babalugats

            Genre is also important here. A thriller is going to want the audience to understand the threats the characters face and options they have in dealing with them. A comedy is going to want to play with the absurdity of its world. Tolkien is a good example as you can see how his world building tightens as he goes from the more comedic Hobbit to the heavier Lord of the Rings, and continues to tighten as he raises the tension. But we never get to a point where we’re strategizing what spells to use, or what potions to brew. The world never loses its strangeness, and Tolkien never loses the emotional core of the story.

    • ZoeZ

      To stretch into science fantasy, I think Upstream Color has this kind of uncanny feeling to it: less supernatural and more preternatural, because there is definitely an order there that the characters can semi-follow, but thoroughly and mysteriously strange. The characters who seek to overtly manipulate this process are the villains: everyone else just holds on for dear life.

      • DJ JD

        I somehow missed the existence of this movie utterly; thank you.

    • Babalugats

      When you say implicit existential terror, my mind immediately goes to Under The Skin, but I think that still qualifies as horror. I’m not sure a movie can be terrifying without being horror. Like, in Star Wars the Force is unscientific, a mystical unpredictable -er force that the characters must submit themselves to in order to utilize. But it isn’t really terrifying.

      Maybe David Lynch’s stuff, depending on whether or not you consider it horror? The latest Twin Peaks has a mythology that is dangerous and takes a toll on the characters and their world.

      • DJ JD

        Yeah… I came into this from a sociological perspective, that it seems like magic has become almost entirely defanged, but as I’ve been reading the replies I’m wondering if genre ossification following moviemaking/-budgeting trends is part of my problem here. We don’t have many sunny fantasies that intermingle wonder and joy with thrills of outright terror the way, say, The Dark Crystal did any more. Most mainstream movies want their audiences to pretty clearly grasp how they’re going to feel well before the lights in the theater go down–which is one of the reasons I wanted to set aside horror as a genre. I mean, I haven’t seen any of the Divergent movies and I have a pretty clear idea in my head of how they’ll want me to feel just from the one trailer I saw.

        (Which, as a postscript, that last point is one of the reasons I think Last Jedi got such a mixed response: it didn’t make everyone feel exactly how they went in expecting to feel.)

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          That is exactly why people didn’t like The Last Jedi and it was VERY frustrating to hear fans heavily implying that they were angry the movie repeatedly subverted their expectations and surprised them.

    • Discworld – Not quite scary, but everyone knows that magic has unintended consequences that are as likely to blow you head up as turn lead into gold.

    • Parts of Tarkovsky’s Stalker count, I think, although “terror” is maybe the wrong word for it.

      • Babalugats

        I think terror works, in the “God fearing” sense of the term.

        Stalker is a great example.

      • pico

        I’d stay Stalker yes, but somewhat less so than the book it’s based on, and ditto the other author Tarkovsky adapted, Stanislaw Lem. Both Lem and the Strugatskys were concerned with the limits of human comprehension when facing the actual capital-A Alien, something our brains are unequipped to handle, and thus at the mercy of internal crisis (emotional instability, terror, sure).

    • Miller

      The adaptation of Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrell touches on this, although it fucks up in the end and the book is much better. On the other side, Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea books initially portray a society of comfortable thaumaturgy – magic exists, certain people can use it while others can’t and while that can cause problems there is a well-ordered structure for the use of magic that seems to work well – but slowly undermine that foundation in a very interesting way.

    • Also (and maybe this doesn’t count because of how fable-like it is) The Red Turtle at times.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Did anybody read the Bartimaeus series? In those the magicians are basically in a deeply warped version of an English class system and hold great power as a result (while also feuding with each other, etc.)

      • Fuck yeah! Those books were awesome.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Yeah they were really fun as I remember. I loved the genie as snarky slave trickster like Roman comedies.

          • Those were also the first novels I encountered that used footnotes as storytelling devices. I realize the technique had already been thoroughly explored by other writers before those books came out, but I wasn’t reading DFW when I was 14!

    • The Ploughman

      With a nod to Arthur C Clarke’s axiom that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” are you suggesting that our depiction and view of magic has become more blase? Like, since we’re able to use “sufficiently advanced technology” every day (to, say, have a conversation about magic with several people around the world simultaneously through a device in one’s pocket), we’re less awed by its presence, less apprehensive about its source (Apple is slightly more fathomable than God or the Devil), and less thoughtful about its consequences?

      I think there’s a lot of films that fit the definition if we open it up to “black box” technologies (Black Mirror, The Circle). Maybe that’s the new version of terrifying magic, where the demon behind the magic has been replaced by the powerful person whose agenda we don’t know.

      • DJ JD

        I wasn’t thinking of future shock, exactly, but that’s a good piece to plug into this, too. I was thinking more about magic as a contrast (and foil) to technology, and how we’ve become so comfortable with it that something like that Sorcerer’s Apprentice movie with Nicholas Cage and Jay Baruchel that we register it as “normal” and not, you know, unmoored from reality to the point of being bizarre. Our tropes and genre trappings on the point have become so established – and in ways high-school me never would’ve imagined possible, as a sidenote – that we don’t even bat an eye. That’s the direction I was going with this.

    • pico

      For what it’s worth, my reading of Personal Shopper is somewhat in line with what you’re talking about: the spiritual, post-death world exists, it is possible to contact entities in it, but that brief contact is capricious and the dead speak in such seemingly arbitrarily ways that it can be frustrating at best, damaging at worst. The very fact of contact in Assayas’ world leads the protagonist to emotional crisis. (And all that’s assuming some parts of the film aren’t in her head, which is itself a possible consequence of the above.) Maybe better if we didn’t mess with the afterlife after all?

  • Miller

    “an interesting insight on Pixar’s desire to create actual physical pain for the viewer during one part of Inside Out”

    Ah, so that’s why they made Lava.

  • Conor Malcolm Crockford

    Also I think @drunknapoleon:disqus and @ZoeZDean:disqus among others was interested in my story?

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vGLS78xw7lpl0vBISOhd-FEGc2Jm0NWnPtFTEyEvOjs/edit?usp=sharing

    Warning: it is pretty long.

    • ZoeZ

      I like the combination of the hardboiled and the Lovecraftian here, and then I think the ending–horror but also transcendence, and a kind of sadder, price-of-nostalgia tone–makes it its own distinctive thing. (Although this also makes me think that, if you have not read Night Film, you would like Night Film.)

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        Wow! Thank you for reading it. Do you have any notes? I was told by my friend that the dialogue is pretty samey and I need to work on that.

        • ZoeZ

          I think keeping the genre blend in mind could help with the dialogue, if you think of what characters are in an old film noir, what ones are in a horror movie, etc., just as kind of a cheat. And I think maybe further develop the moment when Rich sees the film strip? It’s when his motivation changes and when we really see that his longing for the past runs deeper than even just Rachel, so I’d maybe lean on it more: have Claire mention something about it earlier or have Rich take it with him from Doggett’s?

    • Babalugats

      I read your story!

      It could use a bit of a polish, but it’s very good for an early draft. Well structured, and a very good hook.

      If you’re looking for advice, I would say flesh out your final chapter a bit. Give your replacement detective a name, personality.Treat that like it’s own little short story.

      If you want more specific notes, like line-by-line, I could share some, but you’d probably be wise to ignore them.

      Good stuff though, I hope you don’t scrap it and start over.

  • BurgundySuit

    Year of the Month update (from an idea by Elizabeth Lerner)!

    Here’s some things you can write up this month:

    https://letterboxd.com/films/year/1983/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_in_literature
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_in_music

    And here’s who’s writing!
    Feb 1st: BurgundySuit: The Final Cut
    Feb 2nd: Babalugats: Zack
    Feb 5th: Son of Griff: Zelig
    Feb 6th: Joseph Finn: WarGames
    Feb 8th: Gillianren: Will Lee (Mr. Hooper)
    Feb 12th: BurgundySuit: El Sur
    Feb 13th: SCB0212: Return of the Jedi
    Feb 14th: Wallflower: Soundtracking – Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
    Feb 15th: John Bruni: Trouble in Paradise
    Feb 16th: Conor Malcolm Crockford: Videodrome
    Feb 19th: Balthazar Bee: Psycho II
    Feb 20th: Jacob Thomas Klemmer: Local Hero
    Feb 26th: Ruck Colchez: A Christmas Story
    Feb 27th: Jacob Thomas Klemmer: L’Argent/Trading Places
    Feb 28th: BurgundySuit: Chartbusting!

  • MisterMike

    That’s interesting. I felt that there was a real camaraderie among the hobos with A. No. 1 as their leader. But obviously they’re not going for realism, like say Ironweed.

  • rusty

    Definitely not on purpose, for you know, absolutely no reason whatsoever.This movie’s great.