• Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      Community, Season One, Episode Eighteen, “Basic Genealogy”
      “I am Britta, and I have offended you, and I apologise.”

      “I have to go to my car and get my emergency shirt! And I don’t even like that shirt!”

      It’s Family Day at Greendale! Why does every episode feel like a different holiday? Slater breaks up with Jeff, and I actually love that this is handled quickly and cleanly. Jeff sets out to bang someone as quickly as possible, and accidentally sets his sights on Pierce’s stepdaughter. It seems to immediately veer away from “Jeff will fuck Pierce’s stepdaughter and then regret it” when Pierce asks for help impressing her and Annie provides Jeff with motivation. Only then does Jeff end up fucking her – and it’s when he discovers she’s grifting him that his sense of friendship ends up overriding his playboy instincts, and when he reveals this to Pierce, Pierce responds with “yeah, I know”, Jeff gives the “friends are family” speech, and Pierce decides to act paternally towards Jeff, which causes Jeff to open up about his pain about the breakup.

      I find myself thinking of The Shield, and how that show was built out of cop cliches. Community is far more openly self-aware about it, but it’s also the same basic idea – sitcom cliches, given dramatic context. Jeff’s speech about friends being family is the same speech we’ve heard a million times in a million sitcoms, but it comes from somewhere real, and it causes Pierce to act, and that’s true of all the cliches this episode hits.

      Meanwhile, Troy’s grandmother shows up, and Britta immediately takes a condescending attitude towards her and pays the price. This plot feels like my whole journey with leftist social justice compressed to twenty minutes – starting off with a naive general principle, seeing it starting to blow up in one’s face upon the discovery that individuals are individuals but following it as far as one can out of a desire not to be a hypocrite, suffering a painful humiliation, and finally just giving up the general principle. The only way it could be better is if Britta had more rules that contradict the other rules.

      (I’ve seen people complain about Harmon turning Britta into an idiot, but to be honest it always felt true to me that she’d stop putting effort to appear smart after, you know, things like this.)

      Scattered thoughts: I love that, when Shirley immediately comes up with a revenge plan against Prof Slater, Abed is immediately ready to go, no questions asked. I don’t have much to say on the burqa plot, beyond that the reveal is fucking hilarious. That really is a bad shirt.

      Neon Genesis Evangelion, Episode Nineteen, “Ambivalence”
      A literary story is driven by its setpieces, and this episode has my favourite setpiece in the whole show. It’s really a part two to the last episode, because the first half is largely in the same vein as that one – a straightforward acceptance that Toji is the pilot of Unit Three without anyone saying it out loud, and in fact by this point only Kensuke and Shinji don’t know. At the start, he asks Misato exactly what’s going on, and she tells him everything except that little fact – the scene is fairly ordinary until she gets to that, when there’s suddenly a jarring, slightly fish-eyed look down at them, highlighting the awkwardness.

      Toji is approached by Rei, who’s clearly shifted from her standoffishness when Asuka arrived. Toji figures out that she has a thing for Shinji. Conversely, Hikari admits to Asuka that she has a thing for Toji after Asuka laughs off the idea that Toji and Rei have a thing going on.

      There’s a vitally important scene where Misato has left Kaji in charge, and he and Shinji have a nighttime talk about his father. Kaji has become a kind of father figure to Shinji by now, approachable, cool, and willing to drop wisdom on him like the incomprehensibility of other people.

      During Unit Three’s test, Misato observes that one could conquer the world with four Evas, clearly thinking over the holes in NERV’s story. All of a sudden, we get the real meat of the episode: Unit Three suddenly turns into an Angel and explodes, and the kids are deployed to fight it. With Misato out of the picture, Gendo takes control of the operation.

      The psychological aspect to NGE’s horror always appealed to me, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but coming back to it I see it’s also the absolute fuckiing ownage of it. I’d be curious to see what other ownage aficionados think of this show, because it’s intoxicatingly awesome in both the colloquial and archaic senses of the term – even as it’s played for more and more horror, the ownage never lets up. Asuka is taken out out of our view before she has a chance to tell Shinji about Toji, and when it takes out Rei it fucking breaks gravity to do it before trying to infect it through the arm.

      Gendo orders the left arm severed, knowing full well that Rei can feel that, and orders Shinji to attack. He refuses, unable to see the Angel as anything other than something holding another child like him, and for his trouble he gets the shit pounded out of him. The Angel not only fucking backflips into his face, it impossibly stretches out and chokes the life out of him. Gendo gives up and orders the activation of the Dummy System.

      It’s as if the Eva wakes up – in fact, it’s very much like when Unit One thrashed the shit out of that Angel in the second episode. The absolute mind-shitting ownage is thrilling, as it fucking rips the Angel limb from limb; at the same time, not only is Shinji totally traumatised by this (remember: he can feel everything the Angel is doing), so is the bridge crew as they watch on. Only Gendo is smiling.

      After it all goes down, Misato wakes up to find Kaji next to her, and she quickly calls Shinji to apologise and tell him who pilot three is; unfortunately, she’s a fraction of a second too late, and when he and we finally see actual physical proof that Toji was in the Eva/Angel, it snaps his mind in half and his scream echoes into the credits.

      Steven Universe, Episode Nineteen, “Beach Party”
      When fighting a monster, the Gems accidentally destroy the sign on the local pizza shop, getting them banned by the crusty* pizza shop owner. In an effort to repair the relationship between them, Steven throws a party for them. I think I’ve located the source of some of my frustration with this show: Steven is the only character who wants anything. It’s a runner through the episode that the Gems don’t give two shits about the pizza place; it makes it hard to care when none of the characters do. That said, when the party kicks off, it’s fun to watch – much like Mad Men’s dinner parties, the structure of a party gives everyone a chance to show off their personalities. It’s easier to take as a hangout show when everyone, ya know, hangs out.

      (The old grandmother Kiki is the obvious crowdpleaser, but my favourite detail is the crusty pizza shop owner cheating at volleyball by threatening his daughter with groundings)

      The whole thing is resolved when the creature attacks again, everyone works together, and the Gems are unbanned.

      *geddit?

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        The Britta subplot is one of my favorites in the series because it’s rare to see a character on a sitcom trying to be good and having that backfire not because of social awkwardness or a faux pas but because of something arguably more common which is trying to be better than someone else and completely fucking that up (a recent version of this is Ilana from Broad City, who is so tumblr-y that she forgets that actual people from her rhetoric exist). A lot of Britta’s character can be summarized in her taking that whipping.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          It really cuts through the bullshit of these kind of plots and looks at the real core of the motivation behind it – in fact, I find myself sympathising more with Britta this time around (not that I never sympathised with her), recognising my own tendencies that way. Technically, Britta succeeds wildly at what she set out to do, which was hold onto a broad principle even in the face of literally everything telling her not to.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Yeah I wince in understanding with a lot of her behavior because I’ve done that stuff. Harmon’s critique of the left through Britta is a lot stronger than any average one from the right wing (snowflakes, whiners, blah blah blah) because it acknowledges the validity of her arguments but shows how those same beliefs are constantly applied to the wrong subject and never make her any happier as a person.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            It’s interesting what we’ve been branding good criticisms of leftism – we’ve also discussed elsewhere the idea that Dutch is an Enlightenment figure in a classical world. The connection I see between Britta and Dutch is that both think they can be both principled and powerful at the same time – that the world will reward you for being a nice/smart person.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            Technically, Britta succeeds wildly at what she set out to do, which was hold onto a broad principle even in the face of literally everything telling her not to.

            And now I’m thinking “If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?”

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        “We always watch what she wants to watch! I hate Glee!”

        Is this the first Glee diss of the series?

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I think so! It came out around the same time.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            I think they both premiered the fall of 2009, yeah?

    • ZoeZ

      I have watched other movies in my time away, but things have been so busy that I can’t for the life of me remember what they were in the time I have to write this, so: last night I saw Dunkirk, the movie which proved I don’t know what anyone looks like, having comprehensively failed to recognize Tom Hardy throughout the entire thing. I want to see it again to better enjoy the timeline-play, but what I really appreciate about it is that the timeline-play is a refining device upon very straightforward and often nakedly emotional material. There’s a way of dealing with heroism that’s unbearably reverent, but it’s often avoided only by becoming minimizing, and Nolan avoids both those traps and reaches unashamedly for naked, big emotional beats while conveying them with compassion, visual beauty, and humanity.

    • DJ JD

      World of Dance, finale. It’s hard not to view the winners as predestined, since I still don’t think they should’ve made it past the last round and they only one (by two-tenths of a point!) over someone who was explicitly given a song that goes against her style (when they most certainly weren’t). It took some of the fun out of it all, really. It was still a ton of fun to watch, though.

      Breaking Bad S3E5, wherein a man returns to a recently-departed career and a woman secondguesses her most rational recent choices to date. I appreciate that they gave Skyler the wherewithal to put the pieces together, and it made for a phenomenal wham moment. But now it’s a problem, because the plot is weakening the character to keep the wheels turning. She has one correct choice here and it’s tough to think that she just *can’t* make it, and while I appreciate the lawyer’s cold hard slap to the face, it just makes her responses seem more illogical. I suspect this is only going to get worse as the show goes on, because I’m not even halfway through the show and it seems like they’ve played some pretty endgame moves.

      That reminds me that I noticed last night that they really downplayed the sister’s early obnoxiousness, which is a relief. That didn’t really add that much to the show except that it made me not want her on the screen, so that seems like a good correction there. Hank is on like three collision courses at once; her having a kleptomaniac sidestory doesn’t seem like it would add anything to this brew anyway.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        You can almost, if you squint, see a motivation for Skyler’s actions in that she wants to preserve the image of her family, not only for outsiders but for her son and daughter, so that they never know their father is a monster; they eventually make that work but it takes a loooooong time.

        • DJ JD

          I get what they’re going for, but it’s not quite working for me. You take a character smart enough to put this together and strong-willed enough to take the steps she took, then you have her dither while her lawyer tells her flat-out she’s putting herself at risk of the same crime and she does it for the sake of appearances? Or maybe she Really Loves Him and the appearances are all an act–but she seemed sincerely frosty towards him when she wanted the divorce.

          I found the idea that she was more compromised herself than she seemed to be a more intriguing take, but I don’t feel like the show really sold that: she accepted her boss’s cooked books with serious caveats (which I don’t see as being on nearly the same level as cooking and distributing $1,000,000+ worth of meth) and then she slept with him to goad her husband out the door. Okay, she could’ve made a different choice or two with her boss, but I didn’t see that as a moral-horizon moment for her, and I didn’t get the impression that the show did either. I got the impression that money was a bigger concern for her sister than for her anyway, which isn’t helping here.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            You’ll get no argument from me. It was a really frustrating part of the plot.

    • The Edge of Seventeen – there’s quite a lot of praiseworthy stuff here, in how it keeps its protagonist relatable despite being the architect of most of her own problems, and the way it fully embraces the messiness of teenaged life, but it also has a bunch of one-dimensional supporting characters that stop it from ever reaching the top level for this kind of teen / high-school comedy-drama. Hailee Steinfeld is really good, as is Woody Harrelson, but it’s a shame all the other characters seem to rely so heavily on basic genre stereotypes.

      • Is that purposeful based on the character’s one dimensional world view?

        • Maybe? But it didn’t really work for me. I almost felt like they made everyone else purposefully thin just so we’d have no choice but to side with the protagonist, as at least she had a full personality, even if it was a frequently irritating one (which isn’t a criticism in itself, I remember what being a teenager was like!)

          • But, again, I think that was purposeful given that that main character was an unreliable narrator. Look at how much she got wrong about her brother in the climactic fight? The narrative was driven by the character’s stereotyping of all the other characters and she doesn’t break that world view until almost the very end.

          • If that was the aim, I don’t think they pulled it off. The reveal of the brother’s actual role in the family felt like even more of a cliché than what she initially thought.

            I did basically like the film for what it was, I guess I just thought it was going to break the mould a bit more than it did.

      • clytie

        I had the same reaction to that movie. It felt like it could’ve been something really good, but just missed the mark.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp – Camp Tigerclaw continues to be my favorite subplot because Josh Charles tearing up money and being over the top rich and snobby is hilarious to me. Plus Kirsten Wiig (whose name I kept reading as Kristen for no reason until it hit me this morning).

      30 Rock – “It’s not a lemon party without ol’ Dick!” It’s the Ludachristmas episode, a classic with the first appearances of the Lemons, who unfortunately come into contact with Mama Donaghy. My god Elaine Stritch was a joy on this show – so many bitchy, old school one liners. It’s too bad Andy Richter never popped up again as Liz’s traumatized brother, I’d love for him to have popped up bitter and jaded after being stuck in the eighties for so long.

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        Andy Richter as a cokehead would have been great. “If I’m gonna be stuck in the 80s, I’m at least gonna enjoy it!”

    • Grace and Frankie – All caught up, but damn if this isn’t first world problems: the tv show. Seriously, these characters are wealthy and privileged beyond normalcy. They have at least 3 very nice houses/McMansions, and Grace’s daughter apparently has enough extra capital lying around to loan $75k to F&G’s new vibrator venture. Then they go around claiming they built the company from nothing. $75k is not nothing! And the formula is weird. Every episode there’s a big fight over non communication and then a makeup over the same behavioral pattern. Nobody really learns anything. Also, why did these two rich women even live together in the first place? There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief that I can’t avoid.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        I liked G&F‘s first season, but it’s really a classic dumb sitcom updated for 2015ish; the characters are gayer, the values are slightly further left, and the plot is needlessly bloated, but the basic plot beats are the same dumb farce beats we had in things ranging from King Of Queens to Some Other Sitcom I Can’t Be Bothered Thinking Of Right Now.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Grace and Frankie now sort of interests me just because I’ve been listening to the Jane Fonda/Jean Seberg miniseries on You Must Remember This and Fonda’s childhood and left activism is really crazy and fascinating.

      • clytie

        That sounds like an even richer version of Modern Family.

    • The Narrator

      The Shield, “Greenlit”: I return once again very belatedly to The Shield, so @disqus_wallflower:disqus will stop trying to get me shivved. It’s good!

      I’m also currently writing a sure-to-be-mammoth piece on Mike Mills for this site, and it’s funny to note that he and The Shield share a touching kind of baseline empathy for all of its main stable of characters. It’s just that no one in 20th Century Women is violating civil liberties.

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        How many Mike Mills-es are there? This doesn’t sound like it’s about the bassist for R.E.M.

        • The Narrator

          To add greater confusion, this Mike Mills has also worked in music (he’s designed a bunch of album covers, for the likes of Sonic Youth, Beastie Boys, and Cibo Matto, and even played bass in the short-lived 90s Jon Spencer Blues Explosion/Cibo Matto supergroup Butter 08).

        • Garrison Fox

          Surprised you didn’t make a “baseline” pun there.

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            ARRRRRRRRRRGH

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, Episode 2. It was… fine? I’d read some reviews and comments from people who binged the whole thing (and of course wrote about it in the comments of the review of the first episode) to the effect that the series didn’t really have any new comic ground to break or anything new to say, and I kinda felt that this episode. Best sequence was Andy (Paul Rudd) trying to deal with a younger generation’s Andy (Skyler Gisondo, fresh off of The Santa Clarita Diet).

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        Oh, I forgot to mention, Rudd is finally showing his age a little, by which I mean “He’s 48 and his character in this looks like a 30-year-old singer for a Staind cover band.”

  • Drunk Napoleon

    I absolutely love it when movies talk to each other (I plan to write a sequel to this essay comparing and contrasting Rio Bravo and Assault On Precinct 13), and this essay is inspiring me to pick up two totally random movies I like and compare them.

    • Babalugats

      This would be a great regular feature.

    • Son of Griff

      Let us know when and where you post this. Also, with regards to the two films that you mentioned, THE HATEFUL EIGHT makes it kind of a trifecta.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        Could you expand? I’m intrigued, but I don’t see it.

        • Son of Griff

          I think how directors create a dialogue in advancing the evolution of genres is a subtext for TH8. The movie implicitly references the movies that Carpenter re-made from Hawks material (RIO BRAVO and THE THING) in terms of structure and style. They are set in a closed environment featuring professional communities facing attacks while cut off from a larger world. Tarantino’s film fastidiously amps the claustrophobia of Hawks through its meticulous establishment of character placement (and movement) within the confines of the setting while amplifying the inner conflicts between individuals within the group, which was Carpenter’s innovation. Casting Kurt Russell, who channeled John Wayne in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA , in the John Chance role further cements the dialogic connection.

  • I love bizarre and unexpected links between adjacently-watched films! I mentioned one a couple of weeks ago when I watched Ladies in Lavender and Swiss Army Man next to each other, both of which have their plot set in motion by a young man (played by an actor named Daniel) washing up on a beach; my other recent favourite was a double-bill of Absurd and Intruder, each of which feature somebody getting a saw through the head – one vertically, one horizontally!

  • Conor Malcolm Crockford

    I watched Society and Sausage Party consecutively and both of them featured an unconventional orgy as the climax (heh). I think this is as much about my viewing habits as anything though.

  • ZoeZ

    I had a good unintentional double feature with Logan followed by Freaks: it feels like the former could be a distant sequel to the latter. Both have the same intimate, personal focus on the lives and connections of their “abnormal” characters; Freaks is about courtship and marriage and Logan is about parents and children; the community of mutants in Logan, just starting to reform, is the same close-knit community in Freaks.

    • Drunk Napoleon

      I’ve always loved the idea of stories that are secretly origin stories for other stories, e.g. Hateful Eight being the origin of the world of Reservoir Dogs.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Hot take: of the superhero movies that came out this year Logan will be the best remembered along with Wonder Woman (haven’t seen Wonder Woman yet but I can safely bet on it).

      • Drunk Napoleon

        I’m hoping Fury Road and Logan are a one-two punch kicking the Hollywood action genre back into an 80’s-esque high, as people remember how to write good, basic thrillers again. For once people will learn the right goddamned lesson from a successful movie.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Same here – my greatest hope with Logan is that people realize the film had staying power because it had real, powerful emotional stakes and took some risks. The movie made me angrier at the superhero movies I’d seen in the past ten years because they were fun but they just moved the story along and had no impact.

          • My biggest thrill from the MCU is thinking how they’re finally bringing [superhero name goes here] to the big screen well. As opposed to Logan, which moved me deeply with real, adult emotions.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            There’s just something off with the formula when Whedon has to fight just for an interlude where no one’s doing anything or pushing an arc massively forward.

            And yes, while I usually push against the notion that a comic book movie has to be adult, it was jarring to realize maybe an adult comic book movie means really dealing with complex issues and things from life, like taking care of someone you love and growing older.

    • Balthazar Bee

      Watching Logan immediately after The Gauntlet was a trip, particularly once I found out that the latter was one of Mangold’s primary influences. Makes sense I guess, but quite a coincidence; it’s not a connection I would’ve made on my own.

  • The Narrator

    There are so many people here who need to know this: Kurt Sutter will be acting in Doug Liman’s Chaos Walking, as husband to Demian Bichir and adoptive father to Tom Holland.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Is he into feet?

    • Well, gosh people, why not just go for the obvious choice here. With that out of the way, hmmmm. As an actor, Sutter does have a real off-center presence; it just hasn’t worked yet for longer than five minutes at a time. We will see.

  • Babalugats

    Right now I’m sitting on a copy of Brian DePalma’s Casualties of War, which the back describes as a

    A Vietnam-era drama, wherein a young soldier suffers a crisis of conscience when the men on his patrol callously rape and murder a Vietnamese girl and then try to cover up the crime…. uncompromising tale of brutality, a disquieting film based on actual events chronicled in The New Yorker in 1969.

    I haven’t watched it yet because I feel like I just saw that movie in Detroit.

  • Son of Griff

    One of the big problems with revival film programming is that double feature choices tend to refer to pairings specific to the world of film: Actors, directors, genres or national cinemas. Double features based on different type of pairings outside of the discourse of movies can reveal social and political discussions both within a time period, or across generations. If we can get the Solute film fest off the ground, these dialogic pairings would be a good way to focus this.

  • Defense Against The Dark Arts

    In the not-too-distant future we can have a double feature with this movie and the one about the people trapped on a ski lift. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVS_5BiOWys

  • BurgundySuit

    Coming home from Atomic Blonde and watching Monster made for a good Charlize Theron Is Blonde, Morally Ambiguous, Occasionally Gun-Toting, Occasionally Naked and Occasionally Covered In Blood double feature.

  • clytie

    Question of the day: Is seeing a film necessary to enjoy its sequel?

    Related question: Do I have to see the first Daddy’s Home to enjoy the sequel?