• Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      LOST, Season Six, Episode Three, “What Kate Does”
      “You’re not a zombie, right?”

      “It’s not your fault she’s dead. It’s mine.”

      We’ve talked before about LOST introducing new mysteries and characters in its final season; I’m okay with Dogen and Lennon because they’re simply an extension of the Temple, which has been part of the story a long time. The mysteries of the spring and the infection I’m more iffy on – the characters, for the most part, are cleaning house psychologically speaking, and the new mysteries inject the wrong kind of energy. We should be cleaning up, not making a new mess.

      James starts to go full-on Sawyer again – his scene in which he literally throws away his past with Juliet is heartbreaking. Alt-Kate ends up living through our Kate’s original arc very quickly, seeing her sense of goodness compete with her self-preservation. We also get our last appearance from Ethan!!!

      Mac comes back! It’s hilarious, because everything he says and does could plausibly be said and done by Mac.

      Zooming waaaaay the fuck out, I was thinking about how this show was my X-Files or Star Trek, both in the sense that it was a goofy mythology story I literally grew up watching, and in the sense that it was my watercooler show, in that I was, ever so briefly, attached to a cultural touchstone where I could have meaningful conversations about it with complete or near-strangers, and how that’s really changed since LOST aired, to the point where I don’t think I could ever have that experience again, and sometimes wonder if I even want to. Partially this is because my approach to pop culture criticism has changed (the more popular something becomes, the less inclined I am to want to talk about it, because part of my goal is to have something novel and interesting to say and that’s hard when six billion people are talking about the same work), and partially it’s because the landscape of internet criticism has changed a lot since 2004, which is a little bit LOST’s fault.

      It’s not just that the cultural conversation has shifted to talking about the social good (or otherwise) of works over anything else; it’s that the process of internet pop culture criticism has been commodified and streamlined – the chain of events from movie/episode to immediate reaction to listicles has become fairly predictable and soulless. I know I’m blowing this completely out of proportion here, but it feels like the Wild West has been tamed; I suppose that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about writing both fiction and criticism, because the former is completely new territory for me to explore, giving me that Wild West feeling again, and the latter makes me feel less like part of the Wild West and more like a pocket of rebellion against the Empire or something (I like to think of The Solute as the Omar of film criticism).

      This is where I pull back from that and concede I’m basically going through the same “I liked it before it was cool” thing young nerds and hipsters have gone through basically forever. I’m not bitter, I think that acknowledging my feelings makes it easier to decide how to move forward.

      Ownage: Mac/Aldo gets owned by Kate AGAIN. Jack swallows the pill, and Dogen beats the piss out of him. Mac/Aldo beat the crap out of Jin, then gets killed by Claire.

      The Sopranos, Season One, Episode Six, “Pax Soprana”
      “These guys today, they want to be buried in a jogging outfit.”

      “When’s the last time you had a prostate exam?”
      “Hey, I don’t even let anyone wag their finger in my face.”

      “This is all a byproduct of progress.”

      I continue to be surprised by the show’s serialisation – things like Tony’s gradual emotional awakening are in line with what I was expecting, the cause-and-effect drive of one thing affecting the next episode is where I’m surprised. I know the show will become more nihilistic, but right now I’m getting a lot of pleasure out of Tony’s development; his transactional attitude towards life is finally causing friction in his therapy, and is muddling his attitude towards Melfi. In his mind, someone does something nice for you, you do something nice for them, and he can’t quite get his head around what he’s supposed to get out of therapy and what he’s supposed to put into it. I’m sure this says a lot about capitalism.

      If the show slowly drops the dramatic elements, I’m thinking it will actually get better for me. If this is the story of a man becoming more emotionally healthy, I think it would actually be better done by jumping from one point in his life to another, disconnected from precise cause-and-effect; progress of something like that is slow and time-consuming. Good drama is about the effects of a single action; good literature is about the effects of a whole lifestyle.

      By comparison, the mob stuff is actually much less interesting. It feels just slightly too separate from the therapy stuff.

      Ownage: Sammy gets the piss beaten out of him by Uncle Junior’s guy. Honestly, keeping track of the ownage seems kind of pointless in this series because it doesn’t have much weight most of the time. By comparison, Cowboy Bebop is equally literary in structure but much more joyful in the moment.

      Also, I went looking for a specific clip because I had an idea for Ruck’s Always Sunny In Farmington account, and I found this gem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8zVRVH7H5Y

    • The Killing of a Sacred Deer–This is basically the epitome of a movie that’s “interesting” without actually piquing my interest much. It’s not for lack of trying. There are parallels to Greek drama, the Bible, and just plain ol’ ethics a-plenty here, all filtered through the register of Lanthimos’s typical black-comic absurdity with impressive deadpan–the fact that the characters all speak in the flattest of monotones, regardless of whether they are talking about murder, masturbation, or mundanity, feels like self-parody of the highest order, and it’s probably the one Lanthimos technique that I felt invested in at all here (though I’ll also go to bat for the bleached, angular cinematography, which doesn’t feel as quintessentially Lanthimosian but fits the chilly humor of the film perfectly). The rest, sadly, is just not drawn with the razor precision of his earlier work, at least not enough to make the film much to wade through. “Don’t you understand? It’s a metaphor,” one character says at one point, and you gotta admire the gumption it took to put a line like that in here but also, like, yes, I do understand but I just don’t care–the movie in a nutshell.

      • ZoeZ

        Can I borrow an AV Club joke? If so:

        talking about murder, masturbation, or mundanity
        The Solute

      • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

        I guess I just wasn’t on Lanthimos’s wave length because the black comedy didn’t register with me. But im not the arbiter of what’s funny and what isn’t (not yet anyway). Although, Alicia Silverstone’s line about her tart was funny.

        • I can’t imagine this being anything but comedy. The way the daughter says, “Dad, Bob’s dying!” in that tattle-tale voice just couldn’t be read any other way to me.

          • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

            There’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy. As Mel Brooks said, tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.

          • Exactly, and I’d say the comedy is almost entirely in the acting register here. If these actors had been directed to take these performances in a different direction, it very easily could have become a tragedy.

          • The Heart Of A Gnu Generation

            Good point. Had they acted like humans it would have been too hard to watch.

        • pico

          I was practically crying with laughter when Kidman very matter of factly says “I guess we should kill one of the kids because we can always have another” like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

      • lgauge

        I just found it really entertaining, but it scratches a very particular itch, so fully understand your reaction.

        • Yeah, that’s fair enough. I also might not have set myself up to enjoy this movie, having watched it after a long day at work and in the living room of my house, where there are lots of distractions. I wonder how I would have felt in a theatrical context.

          • lgauge

            For my own part, I got really sucked in by the very in-your-face Kubrickian steadicam use, especially considering all the different angles that was used. It added to the strangeness of everyone’s behavior. The score helped with this too. Definitely helped a lot by seeing it in a cinema I think.

          • The camerawork was nice, I agree.

    • ZoeZ

      Black Christmas: An effectively unnerving horror movie with an unusually solid grounding in characterization and setting. This borrows some quirky small community touches from Jaws and combines them with an accurate, sympathetic sense of an all-female community. You end up with some fairly nuanced characterization and a refreshing lack of judgment, which puts some meat on the bones. It’s less lean-and-mean than Halloween, but that gives it a rounded quality that makes it stick in the memory, and it’s not like it skimps on the scares. The phone calls are genuinely creepy and that shot of the eye through the crack between the door and the jamb is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen.

      • Glorbes

        Black Christmas is fantastic. I love that movie. Fascinating that Bob Clark directed two brilliant and highly influential Christmas movies in such wildly divergent genres.

        • I Am A Cyentist

          THREE! Murder By Decree is also set at Christmas.

    • Glorbes

      Another episode of Detectorists. Some low level drama is brewing between rival detectorists, and Andy’s girlfriend is being set up as a tad unkind. I can see where this might go. This show is a nice, low boil with very minor but personal stakes. Also, Toby Jones has a very pleasant singing voice.

    • Miller

      Start of Wire Season 3 – Roberts’ Rules of Order! I’d forgotten Marlo is in this from the start (and is goddamn terrifying from the start) and in retrospect it is clear Stringer has no chance. In a show full of grudges and hatreds, no one has more personal anger than Kima at that baby, it is funny while also depressing, next stop McNultyville. In a season that hits Shakespearean heights of betrayal, Bodie is the comic relief/voice of reason – his impression of Poot with the clap (and his dick like a chicken wing!) is hilarious, his observation that the towers suck but the officials blowing them up don’t give a shit about the people inside is dead on.

      • Miller

        Oh! And the whole interrogation with Cheese about his “dog” is priceless, this is the show veering into a more parodic vein (which it would really go wild in in Season 5) and Method Man plays it at the perfect pitch of dumbness and genuine sadness for the scene to work. There is some interesting stuff with language at play – the dog/dawg confusion, the fact that the Major Crimes unit has a woman acting as translator for street argot, Stringer attempting to harness the words of (white) order and authority to run his criminal business.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        “The chair don’t recognize your ass.”

    • The Flash – Honey, We Shrunk Team Flash: Or at least two members of it. This is one of those “poke at it and it unravels” episodes that plays really fast and loose with pretty much everything, especially Barry’s powers. But it’s, for the most part, a lot of fun and makes a somewhat weird “character develops telepathy” subplot work. Kudos to the cast as usual, and to Bill Goldberg’s performance. Always interesting to me how many pro wrestlers are good actors. Clearly, that comes from being in that weird world where your acting skill is as important as your physical prowess.

      Star Trek – A Private Little War: The show’s first effort to do a Vietnam War analogy falls flat as such, but it’s not the worst hour of TV. Points off for its portrayal of various noble and ignoble savages, but for the time it’s not that awful. What really doesn’t work is the Witch Woman Who Seduces Men with Magic. Sexist in pretty much every way that counts, if reasonably well acted by Nancy Kovack. For all its flaw, though, it’s not dull and has the strange occurrence of both Spock and Kirk receiving potentially fatal wounds. Also noteworthy for Janos Prohaska’s performances as the mugato.

      • Glorbes

        The Mugato is one hell of a monster.

    • The Phantom Thread – Beautiful film that takes Anderson’s usual themes and places them in a more sedate setting than usual. Throughout his works, he usually seems to have a master/apprentice or father/son push-pull relationship, and this was no different. Two people trying to make each other the submissive in the relationship, only this time they found a groove to work together in their twisted way. I wasn’t expecting it to be as funny as it was, either. There’s a scene where DDL gushes over a lace fabric, then smash cut to a pink dress made from the lace – the audience gasped at how beautiful that dress was.

      Also, a friend of mine had a shitty week, so I invited him to the movie, but I told him it wasn’t his usual fare (he watches almost only science fiction, fantasy, anime, etc), but it’s likely to be really good. So he joined me anyway and loved it. His first PTA! *sniff* I’m so proud.

      • Miller

        There were a lot of funny moments (anything with the sound cranked up on food consumption) but the most laughter in my screening came in the last ten minutes or so, in shock and befuddlement at where the movie went.

        • Delmars Whiskers

          Giddy DDL sitting on the toilet is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          I do remember being just delighted.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Rome Season 2 Episode 3 – You can see here where the writer found out the show was getting axed, went back, and furiously figured out a way out of the plot he was creating for Pullo and Vorenus and tried to tell the story he was gonna get to if he’d had a few more seasons, god damn it. I don’t really know if the mob boss story would’ve worked well anyway, always seemed like a stretch (though Kevin McKidd plays it perfectly – God is dead, his family are gone, fuck the world.)

      Vorenus and Pullo’s big fight is awesome (these dudes are soldiers), funny, and heartbreaking.

      Atia is totally your cool mom who smokes weed sometimes with you. I haven’t spotlighted Polly Walker much here but she’s always great as Atia, so cheerfully blithe about her awfulness and weirdly genuine even when she’s playing the hustling aristocracy game.

      Ash Versus Evil Dead – S1E4. Put this on when I was very stoned. I always like drug trip stories that actually involve constructive thinking and this is a great example. The two insights this episode has are that Ash’s lack of thoughtfulness actually might be a benefit to him as a heroic actor (where Tony S is a halfway Hamlet Ash just DOES shit), and how Ash’s perfect place is Jacksonville because that’s where he was going to take Linda, a lovely little moment of “Oh wow…the dude just wanted to take his girlfriend somewhere nice and he had to chop her head off and live with it.” Damn I love this show.

    • The Ploughman

      Happiness – Not the Todd Solondz film. It’s a documentary from the guy who brought us Babies (thesis: babies are cute around the world!). The last village in Bhutan to get electricity is excited to finally have television. The film spends much of its time following an eight-year-old boy joining the local monastery.

      The film is gorgeous, with a breathtaking introductory shot where the boy and his uncle are dwarfed by mountains, yet their distinct gates are visible even from a distance. Every scene is gorgeous, which eventually gives the whole thing a tone of manipulation. Each key scene of the story is perfectly composed with coverage. There’s ways to accomplish this without going full Nanook, but everything is nestled in a forced theme (starting with the title) of the disruption of idyllic rural life. The final shots, when televisions finally reign in huts across town, are as manipulative and manipulated as they are eye-rollingly simplistic. It’s beautiful shots of a young boy’s life in a gorgeous mountain town smudged with the director’s fingerprints.

    • clytie

      I started catching up on Riverdale. I was 4 episodes behind and CW only keeps the 4 most recent episodes on their site.

      Why is Cheryl so underused? She’s the best character.

    • pico

      The Good Place: don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just echo Dennis Perkins at TOS and say: this show is a gift.

      RuPaul’s Drag Race: some baffling decisions on the judges’ end (Milk over Chi Chi? C’mon!) but a enjoyably kooky episode at times, including one of funniest lip sync battles the show has had. Still one of the most delightful shows on television.

  • ZoeZ

    Great essay. What you say here about McNulty and the way the show creates collisions and decisions bouncing off each other reminded me of how thoroughly McNulty is grounded in the BPD as a whole organism. Often, the He Gets Results, You Stupid Chief character is just a lone wrecking ball swinging through, with connection and no sense of system except as opposition, but The Wire never loses track of the way crusaders and rebels still exist within the system, with superiors with their own distinct, and not even entirely wrong, priorities and colleagues who both suffer and benefit from their actions. He’s “a police,” part of a tribe, and most of the time he knows that (there’s a nice bit where you find out from Daniels that everyone, including McNulty, have been covering up for the two “useless humps” on the team).

    And it manages to set up one of McNulty’s recurring weaknesses: his familiarity with his own setting has bred (somewhat justified) contempt, whereas his knowledge of other settings and how to work them is something he’s acquired deliberately and actively, and so it just seems shinier and less likely to disappoint him. He fucks up a couple times by thinking that Baltimore outside the BPD will not betray him or disappoint him, that he can rely on the FBI or the judge or the press, and it makes perfect sense for his character.

    • Drunk Napoleon

      One little thing I love about the show was the sheer number of doubled McNulties, creating the impression that in every system you’re gonna face the moral crusader coming in fucking up the system – it reminds me of the conclusion the Jerry Cornelius books came to, which is part of why I don’t find The Wire as bleak as most.

      I also think this kind of thing works for Omar. I always loved that scene where Bunk angrily observes that Omar is just as much a part of the Game as the drug dealers, and of course Michael ends up replacing him..

    • Miller

      At the start of Season Three, McNulty is whining about how they’re not going after Stringer and you want to slap him – sometimes shit isn’t there and there are more pressing concerns. Four and five people a day are dying and McNulty is still ripshit over Stringer skating by in the very first episode (shit, is he still mad about Stringer’s drawing?). This pays off in the end but you can see his shtick getting thin, that contempt is partnered with an unearned righteousness.

  • Miller

    “it uses parts from it to create a new myth, the myth of the Game, of Kings leading Soldiers in a vast network of battles. This is the groundwork for the rest of the show, pulling apart the very myth it creates for us.”

    Nice. I just noticed this at the end of Season 2, and it and all subsequent seasons revolve around people who may be experts in one aspect of the game trying to participate in another and paying a steep price for their ignorance.

    • Drunk Napoleon

      Season one is really the Golden Age of the Game, where everyone is exactly where they have to be for the Game to work as well as possible, and everyone is chasing that high for the rest of the series.

  • Babalugats

    I wouldn’t say The Wire is universally loved, even around here.

    • Miller

      STONE THE UNBELIEVER

    • The Ploughman

      (Starts gathering kindling at Bablugats’s feet, signals for the stake to be brought).

      Tell me more!

  • Delmars Whiskers

    Hey, kids! It’s time for one of my occasional How Bad Is The AV Club Now? updates!

    “What’s your least-favorite commercial jingle?” would have been a hacky premise if Cracked had done it ten years ago, but that won’t keep the AVC from trotting it out and pretending it’s fresh. Will someone rag on the Kars 4 Kids ad? Why are you even asking?

    Oh hey, there’s a Newswire story on somebody replicating a Fast & Furious stunt. Of course, the actual event happened weeks ago, but William Hughes apparently just read about it, so here it is.

    Stan Lee has been hospitalized…and you won’t read about it at the AVC until well after it has happened. Yeah, you’d think a web site that still somehow claims to be run by “pop culture obsessives” would be all over a potentially major pop cultural event, but hey, this branded content needs a space, and updating stories is a lot of work. Maybe you’d like to buy a starter kit from Dollar Shave Club?

    • Miller

      Aw, the answers aren’t original but I was all over the commercial AVQA, I have a soft spot for weird local ads and this was at least an excuse for some to join the conversation (the comments are better though). The Stan Lee thing is inexcusable.

      • Babalugats
        • Miller

          The meat of this is charming weirdness but it is the schizophrenic split, with normal Harris taking over at the end like the first part doesn’t exist, that really makes this work. Fantastic.

    • UUGGGGHHHH.

      I still think the worst thing about the AV Club now is the layout, which completely buries everything and makes it very difficult to find things, even features you think should be relatively easy to locate, like reviews of a particular TV show. There’s still good writing at the site, but it’s buried under the mountain of re-posted and click-baity shit.

      • Miller

        The layout is contempt for both reader and writer. Although Slate’s new redesign is even worse, while the site has produced a ton of contrarian garbage over the years it has good stuff as well, but you wouldn’t be able to find it because the site apparently no longer has a search function.

        • Even before the AVC redesign, I would just google their articles if I was trying to find something specific. Their search function has never been good.

        • Google fu tip:

          If you want to search a particular site, go to google, type “site:url.com thing you want to search for” and it’ll only search that site. Like:

          site:the-solute.com kubrick

          would search for Solute content involving Kubrick.

          • Miller

            Oh yeah, Google advance is better than 99 percent of site search functions and the best way to find AV Club stuff. But as bad as their search is (and it has actually improved, marginally, since the time of that Onion article) it is still there, as the function is on any website worth its salt. Search is somewhere between rudimentary and vestigial in web design, to my eyes at least – a website forgoing it as Slate appears to be doing is disturbing on an existential level.

          • I hadn’t even noticed they did away with it. I’ve used that google trick for over 10y by now for any website, not just Slate or AVC. It’s just always more efficient. And Slate’s new design is just weird. Don’t even know if I like it or now.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        There’s still good writing in some of the features, but they are becoming way fewer and far-between. Mostly it’s out-of-date Newswires, Great Jobe Internet variations and…geez, I still visit the site and even I cn’t tell you what they’re filling space with. Music coverage was one of the greatest strengths of Original Recipe AVC, and that’s all but vanished.

        • Miller

          I think music coverage is in a tough spot, movie and book coverage has not changed much since the site began because the distribution of those things has not hugely changed but music is now a huge free-for-all that has completely moved beyond New Album Tuesday as a coverage point. Movies and books and comics can still be covered adequately without investing a greater deal of time but you’d need to go full Pitchfork to cover music and even then you’re reaching an ever-more-fractured audience. That said, there’s room for interesting coverage if not super-timely coverage – Popless is of course the gold standard but I liked Soundtracks Of Our Lives quite a bit and that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

          • Delmars Whiskers

            Hatesong serves as a nice metaphor for not only the music coverage, but the site itself. Whereas previously music writing celebrated the joy of things that were loved, here was a feature just mindlessly tearing into things for no damned reason. That’s one of the greatest shifts in tone with the AVC: Even old features like Commentary Tracks Of The Damned tended to be more sardonic, frequently with a bit of affection even for crap, but now even the Newswire stories are in snark overdrive, and they’re so busy being clever they often fail to convey basic information.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Hatesong got so damn bad. The Say Anything guy had the most infamous one for my money.

          • Miller

            Empirically not true! The most infamous one was some cockhole who talked about Seal looking like a cannibal because … he has a scar on his face? And is black, which was totally implied. Hatesong comments were generally 50 percent shitting on the feature anyway but people rightfully went off on this one and the site for deciding to run it, and it got yanked after a few hours.

          • Miller

            Hatesong gave us the delightfully vicious Andy Falkous telling some great anecdotes in the process of shitting on Mr. Big and Dean Ween’s immortal “Well, you’re a dick!” to the interviewer, so there were some bright spots. But yeah, it was frequently awful and tedious and that really does connect to the Newswire mockery these days, they both are obvious and trying way too hard. So much contorted effort! For sheer snarky savagery they’re never going to top the hilarious meanness of this headline: https://news.avclub.com/eminem-hospitalized-fat-1798213050

      • The layout literally gives me eyestrain. On any platform I use.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      The comments section is just fucking gone for the most part and its so bleak.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        That had been happening for awhile, though. One of the things about the comments in the Phipps era was that they generally spun off from the article itself. The threads would mutate as they always would, but it would usually come back to whatever point the article was making. (The Dissolve comment threads worked that way, too.) In the absence of original content worth reading, commenters began to drive the site, and the posturing just got worse and worse.

    • “Hey, this is like something we did on the same forum nine years ago!
      “Pfft. No one remembers anything before the Trump administration. They suck. Hey, we should also do an article about that!”

      • Miller

        I, uh, may have linked to that in the comments, because I, uh, may have instigated it in the first place. I still love how it turned out.

        • . . .and so you did.

          Dammit, just scrolling through that first thread breaks my heart a little. We had something special back then 😢

          • Miller

            Tasha tweeted something fairly recently about how annoying firsties were at the time, but how much better they were, in terms of “internet as annoyance,” than what we have now online. Golden days!

    • I really miss what it was. I miss Oliver Sava’s comics columns. I miss the movie reviews (and wish that Iggy and the Grump would have Letterboxd accounts). But haven’t been back to AVC since August. I moved to AVOCADO and found everything I liked but the articles. And Noel Murray is reviewing The Good Place for Vulture, so life goes on I bet he’s paid better.

      • Damn. How many old-guard people are still there? Just O’Neal?

        • Kyle Ryan might count, I’d have to go back and check. They’re pretty much it, and I don’t think any of them are on the editorial side.

      • Delmars Whiskers

        Holy crap. Modell had managed to hang on through all the changes, and I figured he could adapt to anything. This…does not bode well.

        • Miller

          Finally, it is safe to enjoy saxophones at the AV Club! I hope this is a purposeful decision on Josh’s part. I have always been a bit suspicious of how he took over after Keith was ousted, though.

          • Delmars Whiskers

            I’d forgotten that piece was a solo Modell joint. He also co-authored the piece on 18 Particularly Ridiculous Prog-Rock Album Covers, one of the flat-out funniest pieces in AVC history. And after The Dissolve exodus, he famously proclaimed himself “AV Clubber for life.” Now I’m wondering if the whole site really is about to disappear.

  • clytie

    Question of the day: What are some of you favorite movie shots?